5 Questions For… Martin Fletcher

By Alissa Krinsky Comment

Alissa Krinsky
TVNewser Contributor

Breaking News.jpg NBC News Tel Aviv bureau chief and correspondent Martin Fletcher has a new book out today, titled Breaking News: A Stunning and Memorable Account of Reporting from Some of the Most Dangerous Places in the World. Fletcher, who joined NBC News as a cameraman in 1977, has reported from hot spots throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

“My entire career has been at ground level,” he tells TVNewser, “meeting people and witnessing their problems, all around the world.”

Fletcher says he wrote the book because he has “a different take on events, a valuable one. I have had so many real-life adventures that I wanted to share them, and share the lessons too,” he says.

1. TVNewser: Despite my work placing me in many of the world’s most dangerous hot spots, and despite the intensity of the stories I cover, I love what I do and am motivated to keep at it because…
Fletcher: I need the money. No seriously, I need the attention. Actually, this is a very hard question. I can understand why a fireman or a soldier put themselves in harm’s way, but I’ve never understood what’s in it for people like me, who essentially just tell stories. I try to come to grips with this in my book. In my case, I think it has to do with my family’s background – most were wiped out in the Holocaust. I grew up with the silences and the emotional debris of my parents. They were victims, it rubbed off on me a bit, and I think I’ve always wanted to get close to other victims, to help them where I can, if only by telling their stories. And by understanding other people’s problems, I may have come a bit closer to understanding my own.

Recently I’ve done stories from Africa for Nightly News, and most of them prompted messages from people asking to help, asking where they can send money. That is so gratifying and a wonderful motivation. I did one story on a home being built by an African-American couple on the coast of Ghana. After it aired, they received two offers to buy it!

2. TVNewser: In the face of reporting on endless tragedy, conflict, and hardship, I maintain my sanity and keep my spirits up by…
Fletcher: Wild partying, but I grew out of that long ago. Unfortunately. At first, it all just washed over me, as I rushed from war to revolution to the natural disaster du jour. I began as a rather clueless adventurer. But the last fifteen years or so it has all become rather hard. I feel very sorry for people now, and I think I carry a lot of pain around inside me.

My wife Hagar is my greatest support though, and my great children. When I come home from yet another dreadful place, I roll on the floor with my three boys (even though they’re all grown up now), play with the dogs and read, read, read. I walk on the beach for hours, fantasizing about beating up all the awful people I have just met.

3. TVNewser: In my book, I reveal that for much of my early life, I felt like an outsider, that I didn’t ‘fit in’. These days, after becoming a husband, father, and successful network correspondent I now feel…
Fletcher: Great! It took some time though. For years I always expected to get fired because I was the first network correspondent with a British accent, and in fact I was taken off the air. Now there are several, but breaking that barrier left me feeling very exposed. Today, I just accept everything as a gift, given how bad life can be.

Probably many refugees, or children of refugees, like me, feel outsiders; it’s a sense that never leaves you, a sense that the ground is never quite firm, that leaves you searching for something you imagine you will never attain, even if, objectively, you’ve got it all.

4. TVNewser: To those viewers who tune out reports like mine, because they find them too depressing, I say:
Fletcher: Hey, this could be you! Pay attention! My goal is to tell stories about people so that other people will care and help. Our world is so small, and yet the differences in people’s lives are so great. Half the world lives on less money a day than American farmers spend to maintain a cow ($2). So we should be thankful for what we have, and help others where possible. I hope that message comes across from my work, so DO NOT TUNE OUT.

Last month in Uganda I did a story on a sweet eight-year-old girl called Evelyne, an orphan with HIV. In her schoolbook she wrote under the name of her school: Struggle. And the name of the class: Hope. Is that too depressing to watch or does it make you want to help?

5. TVNewser: What I like to do on vacation:
Fletcher: I used to love sailing and beach stuff, but now mostly I track down my kids! They’re also great travelers, so I tend to pursue them around the globe. I’m not a great one for hotels as I spend so much time in them, so we go camping, hiking.

My last few vacations have been spent in London researching a future book…and by the way, if you read Breaking News on vacation, or indeed any other time, go to martinfletcher.gather.com to see related news videos and chat with me and other readers about issues in the book. It’s a fun, internet way to read.