The Front Line Wins Battle for Newsman's Affections; Jeremy Bowen Prepares to Leave BBC Breakfast and Go Back to Foreign Reporting and Writing Books

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Front Line Wins Battle for Newsman's Affections; Jeremy Bowen Prepares to Leave BBC Breakfast and Go Back to Foreign Reporting and Writing Books


Byline: KAREN PRICE Arts and Media Correspondent

JEREMY Bowen may have one of TV's prime presenting jobs but he will always be remembered by viewers as the face of the BBC's war coverage.

For 14 years, Bowen was caught up in some of the world's bloodiest battles in his roles as foreign correspondent and Middle East correspondent.

Two years ago he was appointed anchorman of BBC Breakfast, but despite now working from the comfort of the studio and winning legions of fans with his suave, yet down-to-earth manner, he admits he has missed being on the front line.

It comes as no surprise, then, that as he prepares to leave the early-morning news and magazine programme next month, his future plans include returning to the war zones.

As well as doing some more foreign reporting for the BBC, he is writing two books based on his experiences of war and looking forward to some new presenting roles.

It seems that to Cardiff-born Bowen, war reporting is as essential as breathing.

``There were times when it was quite tough making the transition to presenting after reporting for years and years,'' he says. ``I had been following the news and going off and reacting to stories and was in at the sharp end but suddenly I was doing something very different.

``It was a rocky transition for me, there's no question about it, but it was the right thing to do.

``It was important to try and do something else and there were personal reasons as I was going to become a father.

``My daughter is 19-months-old now and I have seen her practically every day of her life.

``If I had been a foreign correspondent I just would not have been able to do that.''

Bowen faced some harrowing times on the road, including witnessing the death of his friend and colleague, Abed Takkoush.

The incident happened just before Bowen started work on BBC Breakfast.

At the time, he was filming on the front line in Lebanon when an Israeli shell destroyed the car he and his cameraman had stepped away from just seconds before. Takkoush, who had been driving, was still inside the vehicle and died instantly.

``It was the worst day of my life,'' Bowen says simply. Despite the traumatic times, he is excited about returning to the heart of journalism and he is just as enthused about writing his first books - based on war.

He has already spent nine months working on his debut, which is about the 1967 Arab/Israeli war, and he is discovering what a long and painful process being a writer can be.

``It is taking up a lot of time but I always knew it would,'' he says.

Bowen has a number of reasons for chronicling that particular war.

``I am interested in history and did a degree in history. 1967 is important in that it set the scene for the current conflict.

``To understand what's going on there now, you have to understand how we got there.

``It's also a good story - very dramatic. The war itself was very short and sharp and, like all wars, not very sweet. There were massive after-effects.'' Bowen has been researching by scouring archives in Britain, America and Israel.

``I have not been to all of the countries yet but I will have been by September. I have also been talking to a lot of people involved in the war who are still around and there is quite a lot of literature on it which I have been reading.''

His second book should flow easily for it is about life as a war correspondent. …

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