Where will you be on Christmas Day?

CHRISTOPHER WALKER – former Times Jerusalem correspondent
In
general the hacks in Jerusalem used to hate the idea of Christmas Eve.
So many tourists flooded in and there was so much security it was
unbearable.

Worst of all it was the time when you would have to
come up with an idea yourself, or one of the mad desk jockeys in London
would have a suitably ridiculous idea.

One year I had been
dreading the call from London for weeks when it came from the foreign
editor at the Times. He had decided that as Bethlehem was only five
miles away I should up go and live in a manger. I later found out that
he made the suggestion after a particularly good lunch.

Thinking
it was a great idea for a story I took him at his word and set off for
Bethlehem. When I arrived at my designated manger my enthusiasm began
to disappear – it was a foot deep in a slurry of mud.

I decided that this was a good story, but not one to be lived in full.

The
shepherd tending his flocks outside the manger was a part-time teacher
and initially refused to have his picture taken unless he could be
photographed holding his books. An underhand payment of $100 soon
endeared him a bit more to0his animals. The story was very well
received back in London, but my editor had the sense not to pursue too
hard exactly how long I spent in the manger.

JEREMY THOMPSON – Sky News, Live at Five presenter
1984
was a classic journalist’s jack-of-all trades year for me. As chief
sports correspondent I’d just covered the Olympic Games in Los Angeles
and was ready to follow England’s cricket team round India.

Then
came the news that Indira Gandhi had been assassinated. “JT’s got a
visa for India. Get him on a plane,” shouted the duty foreign editor.

And so started the run-up to one of my most exotic Christmases on the road.

Late
on 24th December we flew into Srinagar in Kashmir – just before the
troubles began. On the plane I sat next to the Khuroo brothers, part of
a delightful Kashmiri family, who insisted that we weary travellers far
from home spend Christmas Day with them. By lucky chance they owned a
beautiful wooden houseboat on Lake Dal. So we spent an unexpected 25th
gorging on wonderful Kashmiri curries sitting cross-legged on a boat
looking out across one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. And buying
presents of lapis lazuli from a jeweller who came calling on his skiff.

ALEX THOMSON – Channel 4 News correspondent
We
chartered a flight from Germany to Romania at the time of the
revolution in 1989. When we landed, the Bucharest airport was ringed
with soldiers standing around and smoking.

Suddenly the lights went, the troops ran for the roof and the outer walls and took up firing positions.

Minutes
later there were tanks ploughing up the lawns and car parks and the
firing began… and continued… This kind of thing went on for hours
sporadically and it was clear we pretty much had the story to
ourselves. But we were told there might not be any way into the city
for days. Our exclusive could well have been stone dead by then, but
somehow the desk in London managed to get hold of a Swiss pilot who was
willing to fly in and get us out.

He arrived shortly after dawn
the next day and we threw all the kit in – much as we’d thrown it out
the day before. I remember leaving Romanian airspace and the pilot
doling out those small plastic bottles of champagne you get in planes.
It was certainly a rather off-beat celebration.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR – chief international correspondent, CNN
The
most outlandish place I ever spent Christmas was Baidoa, Somalia, in
1992. This was when President Bush sent US forces to relieve the famine
that was sweeping Somalia and killing hundreds of thousands of men
women and children. I was part of a big CNN team and we were working
round the clock in the famine camps, travelling around the country. It
was heartbreaking, but also a little heartwarming because you could see
these desperate people at last had a chance of surviving. Needless to
say we were neither equipped nor inclined to celebrate Christmas.
However, I do remember our wonderful producer, Ingrid Formanek, somehow
managing to cook up a huge dinner of pasta and vodka sauce for our team
on Christmas Day.

Because of where we were, and what we were doing to try to help, it was perhaps one of the best Christmases ever.

NIC ROBERTSON – senior international correspondent, CNN
I could almost smell Christmas in 2001 when my boss asked me stay a little longer in Afghanistan.

Three
and a half months away from home had brought me here to the dusty, dry
and dirty slopes of Tora Bora. I was camped out in ramshackle bus
beneath the bomb-blasted Afghan mountain peaks.

I’d been here so
long, when I needed a bathroom it was hard to find a rock that didn’t
have ribbons of toilet paper streaming out in the breeze from beneath
it.

Through a bit of good fortune and amazing foresight on the
part of my wife, who has a nose for my ill-considered absences during
family holidays, I had a bag of goodies sent before I’d even got the
call to stay. They’d arrived a week or so before and I saved them for
the big day. We spent Christmas Day in a flea pit known to the local
townsfolk of Jalalabad as the Spin Gar hotel.

After anchoring an
hour-long version of the Live from Afghanistan show that morning… and
another show because a US anchor was taking a well-earned break to
enjoy Christmas, I sat down with my bag of prezzies. Luckily there were
no ties, but plenty of thermal underwear and even a new jumper.

ANDREA CATHERWOOD – presenter, ITV News presenter
In 2003 I
was presenting all the ITV bulletins on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
I’d been warned it would be slow and tedious with some pretty weather
pictures from somewhere cold. That’s how Boxing Day started out when up
flashed a story that a policeman had been shot dead, almost
simultaneously we began to get reports of a massive earthquake in Iran.

As
the day progressed we realised the earthquake was a massive story. As
the footage began to arrive I was itching to write the story.
Presenters rarely package stories when they’re in studio, but as we had
bank holiday staff levels and I was also international correspondent at
the time, the programme editor was delighted to let me go for it.

I
was so engrossed I forgot my husband was coming in to share a glass of
champagne with the team and instead he ended up being drafted in to
search through the rushes for some powerful shots I’d seen but couldn’t
find (all credit to him, he found them).

Of
course I got so involved in putting together the package I almost
forgot I had a bulletin to present as well, giving the studio team a
minor heart attack as I rushed in with just minutes to spare.

TIM GAVELL – Lancashire Evening Post assistant chief sub-editor
Christmas Eve, a lunchtime finish, quick drink and time for some last-minute shopping.

Not
in 1995 when two chimpanzees broke free from Southport Zoo. I was
dispatched with photographer Neil Cross to the seaside town after
reports the male chimp, weighing in at 150lb, had knocked a pensioner
to the ground and trapped three other people in a building on the pier.

We spent the day trawling around in the bitter cold on the trail of the errant duo.

And Scrooge bosses forced us to pay our way in to take snaps of cage upon cage of miserable looking monkeys.

Eventually, marksmen shot dead the male chimp fearing he would escape onto the beach – his female companion was safely captured.

Boxing Day splash safely in the bag, we both made it home to our families still with some time to wrap the presents.

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