Richard Powell, Director of Presswire and Greatreporter.com
(Interviewed as site goes live) 23rd April 2003
did you break into journalism and media?
literally broke into journalism in professional terms
when I marched into the offices of the Sunday Mirror
at Canary Wharf in London one night. I had a good
story and I needed to find a reporter who would look
at it. It was about 9.30pm and having been turned
away from The Independent, a couple of floors above,
I was pleased to find a Sunday Mirror journalist working
a night shift who was comparatively hospitable. His
eyes lit up when he heard the ex-Chilean dictator,
General Augusto Pinochet, who was under arrest in
London, had flown in supporters from Santiago
to stand outside Parliament waving placards demanding
they were normal citizens rather than supporters;
temped by the lure of a expenses paid holiday to London
with a bonus of being paid £9 for every hour
they protested against the General's arrest.
later the paper ran the story as a world exclusive.
It dealt a heavy blow to pro-Pinochet supporters'
credibility in the UK. The Sunday Mirror paid well
for the story and the new relationship lead to further
work in Kosovo the following year."
are your prime aims and objectives?
a journalist, my fundamental aims are to keep my copy
original, respect my sources, deliver what I'm expected
to when I'm expected to and be objective. No matter
how busy I am or what conditions Im working
under, if I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and coming
up with the goods Im expected to then most of
the time reporting doesn't even seem like work. It
rarely fails to reward, even if you're the only one
who knows it was you. How many professions can you
say that about?
is the propose of you website, which is about to launch
in less than 24 hours?
it is a showcase for the work of young reporters and
reporters who are new to journalism, regardless of
age. It's a global platform for stories that are professionally
written, interesting to others and valuable to the
rest of the world, either to inform or engage debate.
The articles we feature are being made available to
everyone where before, they might have just been put
into a draw because an editor rejected it for x, y
or z reason.
also hope the site will assist reporters in their
approach to writing and interviewing, as the site
entry level for submissions has been set very high.
Some articles that are submitted will not make publication
so I expect to have professionals guesting on the
site from time to time who will show how specific
stories should have been written to make them more
attractive to editors.
a story we publish gets picked up externally then
we will seek to get that reporter paid.
many interview requests do you receive?
the first for www.greatreporter.com I was interviewed
a bit when I was at university because local papers
took an interest in a venture I started called the
Latin American News Agency, in the midst of reporting
the Pinochet affair. This has since grown into Presswire
Ltd. which offers editorial, photographic and public
relations services to clients around the world.
the most interesting story you have ever reported
most interesting for me was in 1998 when Kurdish demonstrators
stormed the Greek embassy in London's Holland Park
and held it under siege. They were protesting against
the capture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan. I was
in a lecture when I heard about it and just got up,
dashed home to grab my camera and hopped on the next
think you know when something's really going to captivate
you as a reporter because you get itchy feet no matter
what else is going on at the time. The same itch prized
me away from my television as a war in Iraq grew more
certain by the day. Before I or anyone else knew it
I had started on the long journey to the North Iraq
don't have any ties to the Kurds, but for some reason
I'm drawn to reporting on them. The nights spent outside
the Greek embassy in 1998 had a magical quality about
them as I went from person to person interviewing
them and taking pictures and has lead to a lifetime
of interest in the subject. All of these reports are
do you see the relationship between offline (traditional)
media and online media?
terms of the press, the Internet has definitely shattered
a very traditional mould. News web sites can now be
competitive with established newspapers so long as
they are accurate and professional. A definite danger
is the speed with which news sites can publish information
that sometimes hasn't been properly verified in a
bid to undercut traditional media.
is part of the new media wave but I am confident it's
accuracy and quality will set it apart. I really believe
no-one really knows how the Internet works yet in
terms of marketing and provision of content and that
the boom and bust we saw in 1999/2000 was part of
this strange new beast finding its feet within a wider
media arena. Because of this I think there are boundless
opportunities to shape how sections of it will end
up and I'm looking forward to being a part of this
with the site. Im most excited by the increased
opportunities faster connection speeds afford.
gives you the edge?
I have an edge it's simply feeling that reporting
is a calling rather than a vocation.
you think it's important to be different, and to have
a good story to tell (as in life story)? (I do).
spare you my life story - but yes, I do think it's
important. If you haven't experienced the high and
low points of life, how will you relate to and gain
the respect or trust of your sources? But that's not
to say a learned scholar from Oxbridge who has only
ever known privilege cannot be an equally sharp social
commentarist: history has proved that. Greatreporter.com's
raison d'etre is that it is truly meritocratic - the
way journalism should be.
other journalists do you respect the most?
try to be concise! I think the 'decisive moment' -
to borrow a term from Henry Cartier-Bresson, a fantastic
journalist of sorts - came during the Rwandan genocide
was 15 when I watched those images each night with
horror and fascination in equal measure - the horror
of the Ulindi river flowing with dead bodies, the
fascination of reporters in the midst of the killing
fields acting as our eyes and ears risking death by
happened to change channels late one night and caught
the beginning of the Oliver Stone film Salvador,
with James Woods playing the gonzo stringer, Richard
Boyle. The film had such a dramatic effect on me that
I knew by the time it had finished I wanted be a reporter.
Boyle has since been a rather dubious role model for
me in equal measure with more respectable characters
like: John Simpson, John Pilger, Michael Moore, and
Noam Chomsky - some of whom are supporting greatreporter.com
is the most dangerous situation you have ever been
stupidly pulled over by a destroyed village in Kosovo
once so I could go in and take pictures, then wondered
why cars driving past were beeping at me as I stood
in the middle of it. There were anti-personnel mines,
left by the retreating Serbs, peppered everywhere
so I walked very carefully along tyre tracks and hopped
between boulders until I was back on the road.
you ever received a death threat? (don't answer if
I have been told it would not be in my best interests
to interview certain people in no uncertain terms.
countries have you travelled and reported from?
I blurt out a list, it sounds like quite a few. But
I was sticking pins in a map the other day and I realised
how small the circle I have been moving in is when
considering the rest of the world. For example I've
never reported from Asia, Africa or the Americas (with
the exception of Cuba). Michael Palin, I am not!
the wisest piece of advise you have ever been given?
your head down.
do you manage the balance between reporting and having
a social life, or do you find there is a certain cross-over?
think there's a crossover in respect that there are
networks of journalists in most cities. You've got
to network to keep a healthy contacts book. But saying
that, a larger portion of my friends aren't reporters
or otherwise involved in the media.
are your future goals?
to make Greatreporter.com a success and gain the attention
its writers deserve. I also harbour a secret desire
to work on the BBC's Newsnight, which I hope will
come later. I'm working for BBC News 24 and BBC World
as a freelancer at the moment.
other information would you like our readers to be
listen anyone who criticises your work unless it's
more information visit:
to published version of interview at www.Greatreporter.com