Rip-roaring view of recent history from a journalist with a front-row seat

breaking newsReview: Archie Henderson

Breaking News: An Autobiography by Jeremy Thompson (Biteback Publishing)

For some years the British TV newsman Jeremy Thompson was a welcome guest in our lounge. You knew that when he was there, he always had a good story to tell – and one that was especially relevant.

No matter how complex the story might be or how remote, Jeremy could be relied on to marshal the facts, unravel its twists and turns, and tell it in such a coherent and interesting way that it immediately made sense. Of all the personalities on our TV, Jeremy was the most recognisable – and the most liked.

We could do with his kind again today, in an era of cost-cutting and indifferent reporting by our own media.

Now Jeremy is back. Sort of. In his retirement from SkyNews, he has written a rip-roaring autobiography that is as interesting and as entertaining as his newscasts had been. If you’re looking for a book to relax with this year, Breaking News is it.

It’s often hard to believe how the man got around to all those exotic – and dangerous – destinations and the people – both inimical and friendly – he met. Where there was trouble in the world, from war-torn Somalia to Renamo bases in the Mozambican bush, to vicious ANC-Inkatha fighting in Katlehong, Jeremy managed to get there with little regard for his own safety.

And it was not only the bad news; he loved reporting good news too – none more so than the Springboks’ victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Indeed, it was a condition of service for him. Once the South African story had petered out, after the 1994 elections, he was offered the plum SkyNews job of Washington bureau chief but insisted he be allowed to return to South Africa for the rugby – a sport he has always been passionate about.

It struck me that with so many books appearing lately about South Africa – some of them even readable and containing fascinating new detail about our country’s emergence from apartheid to democracy – Jeremy’s is a valuable addition. It is refreshingly free from the plodding academic prose of most of the current crop and an easy primer to our recent history.

Of course, it’s not only about South Africa but the rest of the story can also be enjoyed, especially by those of a younger generation who might still find themselves lost in the fast-moving and often complicated and convoluted moments of the recent history of our world.

Above all, it reads like a great adventure yarn. Except in the case of Jeremy Thompson, it’s all true.

  • Breaking News is being launched in South Africa this week.


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