Jon Snow's TV Diary

Jon Snow's TV Diary

By Jon Snow,
Wednesday, 11th February 2015
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon

The Charlie Hebdo massacre echoes through Jon Snow’s week. TV journalists can be blasé about many things – but not about being the target of assassination

Channel 4 new presenter Jon SnowChannel 4 new presenter Jon Snow (Credit: Channel 4/Chris Terry)

When you've been anchoring a programme such as Channel 4 News for 25 years, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing shocks any more. But one week into 2015, the first news of the slaughter of journalists, cartoonists, policemen and women in Paris shook me in a way I had not experienced since 9/11. It felt raw, brutal, immediate, and I found the shock lingered all day.

But, that evening, my friend Neil MacGregor, whom I had come to know when he ran the National Gallery and I was a Trustee there, had agreed to take four of us around the Rembrandt show at the gallery.
By 9:30pm, the heaving crowds for this blockbuster have melted away. We are alone in the Gallery with Rembrandt – lots of him. Three striking self-portraits greet us in the first room.
Neil began to flesh out Rembrandt's insecurity, his fast-wasted wealth, his loves and, above all, his artistry. He plays with light on the face and leaves the hands below all but unpainted. We are absorbed and, amazingly, Charlie Hebdo is a world away.

The following Sunday night, I go very deliberately to the cinema for further distance from "events".
As I enter, I'm still asking questions: "Was it the specific, face-to-face assault on so many of my trade, in cold blood, that had reaped so much anxiety in my soul?" I cannot tell.
The front row in the Hampstead Everyman with three friends is an uncomfortable escape. You have to lie almost horizontal on the pseudo sofa even to see the screen.
But at least someone brings you a gin and tonic. Birdman is good – cleverly conceived, brilliantly shot, with truly original camerawork. Charlie Hebdo had taken another back seat.

 By Monday, I'm back in Paris. Despite great advances in the digital age, a live, hour-long outside broadcast is still a bit of a roller coaster.

We lost sound and vision 30 seconds before the start of Channel 4 News. Mysteriously, both returned with 10 seconds to go.

Read more television magazineOn the first Eurostar to London the next morning, I got the last seat – Coach 6, seat 75. It was a 24-coach train and I was so late for it that I had to walk through 18 packed coaches before I found my seat.
Finally, I reached seat 75. There, sitting in seat 74 was my editor's sister-in-law, Christiane Amanpour of CNN fame. We talked the entire journey, covered the piste, and speculated on what might happen next and who was ultimately to blame.
We decided we deserved a full breakfast. Christiane had cut a restaurant reference out of some glossy mag – "The Great Northern Hotel," it extolled, "Try plum and spilt milk for breakfast."
With the extra hour gained in crossing the Channel, we could afford time for porridge, French toast, and the rest. A great way to start the day, save that I had to walk to work, having left my bike at home.

The weekend comes. I decide to take the train to the little place we have in the country 60 miles west of London – single-track roads, sheep on the hills.
Richard picks me up in his sit-up-and-beg taxi. He must be the only Old Etonian taxi driver in the world. His salmon farm was ruined by some poisonous discharge into a Scottish loch. We are just 10 minutes from the station.

Once through the front door, I set the log fire and light it. Tomorrow, I shall do a watercolour. Somehow, that aspect of tomorrow never comes.
By Monday, I am renewed and refreshed. One of my colleagues is a judge on the RTS Television Journalism Awards. I catch myself thinking that she doesn't look like someone who knows we have won anything. And then I remember Charlie Hebdo and feel a bit uneasy for even allowing such a thought to cross my mind.

Jon Snow is Presenter of Channel 4 News.