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The world in your living room

Freelance camera operator Simon Fuller on location in a Mexican jungle in 2007. Photo courtesy of Simon Fuller
DO YOU remember where you were when JFK was assassinated or Princess Diana died?

Can you still see the grainy image of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon?

How about watching, live, as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center?

Television news brings the world to us. Our knowledge and opinions of the world are shaped by what is beamed through to the evening news bulletin.

The lack of coverage for certain events, for example the 1994 Rwanda genocide, means enormous events can be unfolding in one country with little action or assistance from the outside world.

This still happens in countries such as North Korea where media access is under tight restrictions.

For the people behind the camera, covering these events is more than a job. It is a passion.

Simon Fuller is a freelance camera operator based in London and has worked with numerous broadcasters around the globe including BBC, BSkyB, National Geographic Channel, Nine Network Australia, and many more.

Mr Fuller spent his 30th birthday covering the Beslan school siege in Russia.

In a complete juxtaposition, Mr Fuller’s coverage was nominated for a Logie Award the following year.

“Whenever I am covering a major news event around the world the first thing I think about is what is in front of me and how I can use my skills and attributes to portray the story honestly and fairly,” he said.

“You just have to think straight and logically about how you are going to get the shot.

“You just don’t get involved in terms of emotion when you are doing things like Beslan.”

“A black and white view-finder is a good safety net because you see it as you would on TV and you become mechanical about what you are doing in terms of the technical aspects of a shot… it does help desensitise you and keep you sane.

“Adrenalin helps too. Everything goes at a hundred miles an hour and you are just reacting to the situation around you.”

Mr Fuller has also covered news events in conflict hotspots including Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I was nearly shot in Iraq by American soldiers at a checkpoint through a misunderstanding.

“I was in Athens covering the Mokbel trial and was arrested for filming the courthouse. Then, after several tense hours in a police station, I was released without charge.

“I sit back and laugh about it now, but at the time it was very, very scary.”

After being released from jail, Mr Fuller went straight back to work.

“I was sitting in Athens for 38 hours waiting for a plane to land and then depart.

“It was taking Tony Mokbel back to Australia.

“It all happened at the end of the third day very suddenly. The Greek security guards (not the police) didn’t want me to film so they blocked my view to the aircraft.

“So I called up the satellite truck, climbed on top of it and I got a view over their trucks and cars and got the shot of one T. Mokbel getting on board,” he said.

Kiri Lumsden has worked in television news in the UK for the past six years in roles that include producer and bureau manager.

While working at the London bureau of the Nine Network Australia, Ms Lumsden was involved in the race to get news crews into Iraq after American troops invaded in 2003 and to Italy when Pope John Paul II died.

When it comes to TV news, speed is the most important thing.

Getting the images as events are unfolding is the aim.

For a short time Ms Lumsden worked for both Sky News and Al Jazeera (English), two news stations that have very different audiences and takes on what is ‘news’.

“Certainly each network has its own agenda. Personally I think it is much more about who their audience is and what they want to watch rather than the networks boss’s own bias,” said Ms Lumsden.

“You have to tailor for your market.

“While Channel 9 will go big on a story of Anzac Day celebrations or a bus full of Aussie tourists crashing in Egypt, for example, those stories wouldn’t make it onto the BBC.

“Big stories like the Boxing Day tsunami or 9/11 transcend all news boundaries and every network in the world would run those stories because they have a much wider appeal on so many levels.

“It’s all about who is watching your program.”

While working for both Sky and Al Jazeera, more evidence regarding the disappearance of English girl Madeleine McCann came to light. Every popular news channel in Europe jumped on the story.

“Al Jazeera wouldn’t run the missing Madeleine McCann story because their viewing audience is primarily Muslim and based in South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” said Ms Lumsden.

“To them that is a local story with no interest, whereas Sky went big because it’s a populist news program, delivering news to the British middle of the road masses who identify with the McCann’s because they’re white, British, middle class and holidaying in a very popular British destination.”

To deal with the story, Al Jazeera ran a story on children disappearing in South America and highlighted the large number of children who go missing every day.

For Mr Fuller, the dangers of working as a camera man are not just about going to conflict areas.
“Just everyday working is a hazard in London,” said Mr Fuller.

“If you haven’t got the parking wardens chasing you, you have got people dressed in fluorescent vests wanting to know what you are doing and taking down your details for alleged terrorism offences.

“I have been in a couple of situations where I haven’t stopped filming but I’ve put the camera down to make it look like I wasn’t filming for my own health and safety.

“At the end of the day, my health and safety is my concern. If someone puts a gun to my head and says not to film, I’m going to put the camera down but I might keep it rolling. You just have got to judge the moment.”

Despite the potential dangers of his job, Mr Fuller said being a camera man is just what he loves to do.

“I guess it is in my blood.

“You get to go to some amazing places. A lot of the time you get to go behind the scenes, you meet a lot of interesting people and you see some things you normally wouldn’t see.

“I’ve got to meet members of the Royal Family of England and super stars. I’ve got to meet normal people.

“It beats working for a living.”

Kiri Lumsden is the sister of Mardi Lumsden, the Associate Editor of Journey

Photo : Freelance camera operator Simon Fuller on location in a Mexican jungle in 2007. Photo courtesy of Simon Fuller