“The Arab Spring has been a Marathon and not a Sprint”- Jon Williams

“Headlines are easy to write, but delve behind the headlines and all is not necessarily as it appears.” Jon Williams, World News Editor for the BBC began his recent talk about reporting in the Arab Spring.

He began by talking about the uprising throughout the Middle East in which the BBC have been reporting on constantly throughout the year. He explained that the BBC were the only British Broadcasters in Tunisia before former President, Ben Ali, fell. He said that “Tunisia was better known for its beaches than for its 74-year-old dictator.” Jon explained that the map of the Middle East is changing because of the demonstrations taking place throughout various Middle-Eastern countries.

When describing the demonstrations and what was going on, he said that the biggest mistake a broadcaster can make is to: “Assume too much about what the audience understands.” This was in reference to the idea that so much has happened in the past year that for the audience too; “It’s also been a bit of a whirlwind.” and that the levels of engagement with these Middle-Eastern demonstrations had dropped over the months.

Written by Alex Maidment – First Year Student

The BBC have been reporting on these demonstrations from the beginning and have kept reporting on them throughout and afterwards and Jon explained that: “Journalism is not just about a single moment, it’s about the before, the during and the after.” The BBC were in Libya from the early days and were actually showing scenes of protesters very early on. The Libya Uprising has been the longest deployment for the BBC since the Iraq War and is still going on. Jon mentioned that this is not cheap and when asked to guess he said it must have cost over a million.

As the Uprising continued the press core slowly shrank and as Gaddafi began to fall, the BBC were the only British Broadcasters left in Libya to keep reporting on it. The BBC were always there, from the very start. Even at the end of the conflict, when Gaddafi was killed, the BBC were there and they were the only British broadcasters in Sirte when it happened. The BBC had shown that it takes patience and courage to get the full story and this is what they did. They had footage of Gaddafi after his death because they remained in the right place throughout the demonstration. Jon said: “Being lucky is the greatest skill any reporter can possess.”


Jon finished his talk off by saying: “The Arab Spring has been a marathon and not a sprint

and it’s what happens next which defines how Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and who knows, Syria may well turn out, and you have to be there to find out.”



Filed under Coventry Conversation

3 responses to ““The Arab Spring has been a Marathon and not a Sprint”- Jon Williams

  1. Pingback: Death in Syria: the story the BBC cannot tell | Simon's Homework

  2. I’ve praised Alex Maidment in my own piece on Jon Williams’s talk, for picking up on the defining quote that I missed. It’s at the end of this piece: http://simonshomework.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/death-in-syria-the-story-the-bbc-cannot-tell/ – Simon, MA student, Coventry

  3. Very informative and trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one.

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