Alex Crawford OBE thrills audience with insight into war zone reportage

University news

Wednesday 09 January 2013

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First year Journalism and Media student Alex Maidment reports...

Coventry University welcomed a very special guest on Wednesday as part of the popular Coventry Conversations speaker programme.

Alex Crawford OBE, Special Correspondent for Sky News and four times winner of the Royal Television Society (RTS) 'Journalist of the Year' award delivered her talk - 'Travels with my Camera Crew' - to a packed audience of students, staff and members of the public.

The University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Madeleine Atkins, introduced Alex and talked about how she is known as a ‘fire-fighter’, relating the incredible story about how she reported from the back of a rebel pick-up truck in Libya during the Battle of Tripoli.

Alex took the reins from there, saying that: “I couldn’t actually do anything without my crew.” She joked about how they make her look good, and then she collects all of the awards. Alex explained that the crew suffer through the same perils she has too when out getting a story, including staying in squalid conditions and having no food. She remarked that she has been doing it for a long time, but only in the last six months as started to gain recognition following her reporting on te Arab Spring uprisings.

Alex explained that her job is about "being in the right place at the right time”, and showed the audience a couple of videos of what she did in Libya - including her report from besieged Zawiyah, where she became the only journalist to penetrate the town while it was being attacked by pro-Gaddafi forces. This gave the audience a real feel for how dangerous her work is - a lot of gunfire could be heard and there were many people running in fear for their lives.

The second video demonstrated footage from her journey into Tripoli on the back of a rebel pick-up truck. She explained how scared she was in Zawiyah, remarking that "it was a very tricky couple of days".

At this point, Alex was asked how she managed to get into Tripoli in the rebels' vehicle. She explained the scenario, recalling that they were in a very slow moving convoy at the time. Her producer managed to power the vital equipment which sent the footage back to England by satellite to be put straight on air, and she described how this was a huge moment - Gaddafi had said the rebels would never make it into Tripoli, but Sky News managed to get the footage of them doing exactly that.

Despite wondering where all the other journalists were when she made it to Green Square in Tripoli, she did admit that she was thinking more about “Are we going to get out alive?” as opposed to what this reporting would do for her career. She moved on to how it was a crazy few days after that as when leaving Green Square she and her crew ended up at a hospital which was subsequently ambushed. Sparing no details in her account of the situation, Alex described how she and one of her crew were stood outside the building when a doctor helping patients to get inside was shot in the head.

Following on from this, Alex and her crew found themselves inside Gaddafi’s compound when hundreds of rebels broke through and were looting from the compound. She told the story of how they met a bizarre-looking man calmly walking towards them so decided to interview him and were moved by a touching speech in which the man said Libya needs to come together again.

The Coventry Conversation was certainly a hit with the audience, and it was truly fascinating to learn about Alex Crawford’s journey in Libya and about her experiences of war zone reportage. When asked if she likes the fame, she simply replied: “It’s all been rather odd.”

For further information on the Coventry Conversations speaker programme, please contact Alex Roache, External Press & Media Relations Officer, Coventry University, on 024 7679 5050 or email alex.roache@coventry.ac.uk.