Frontline – the review

So – I did finish the book in Brussels after all… and I can heartily recommend it.

David Loyn’s book is a riveting read. Yet the subject matter is the true story of those cameramen, photographers and reporters who took it upon themselves to report on, mostly, matters of war from as close to the matter as they could get. Tales of derring-do, only real, and all the more sobering for being so.

The stark reality of the risks taken to film behind the lines in Africa, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Iraq is vividly counterpointed by the way people like Peter Jouvenal and Vaughn Smith, the two surviving founder members of Frontline Televison News, calculated those risks – for them, it is an everyday matter, like crossing the road when the lights are against you.

You or I might discuss the finer points of eighteenth- & nineteenth-century etiquette while walking down the street. So did Rory Peck… he just happened to have tanks firing over his head at the time.

What about telling a few white lies on your CV, or sneaking into a club? No worse than what Vaughn Smith did… except he was blagging his way onto the front during the first Gulf War, where any sort of journalists were most unwelcome.

Throughout the book, Loyn highlights the bravery and dedication of Frontline’s freelancers, extraordinary people doing an extraordinary service in the face of sometimes relentless opposition which often included contracted media staffers. Not only is this a decent history of a unique agency, it is also a respectful eulogy for those who died doing what they believed was the right thing to do, to give us the truth about what was being done, or not being done, in our name.

If you want to buy the book – and I recommend you do – Amazon have it in hardback (ISBN: 0718147278) and paperback (ISBN: 0141017848), at a very reasonable price. And you can find out what Frontline is about today at their web site.

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