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John Simpson is the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, the senior member of a team of London-based foreign and specialist correspondents.
In a BBC career spanning more than 30 years (he joined as a trainee journalist in 1966), John has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most experienced and authoritative journalists. He has reported from more than 100 countries across the globe, from 30 war zones and has interviewed numerous world leaders.
His most recent and demanding major assignment was a three-month stint in Belgrade during the Kosovo crisis of 1999. He was one of only a handful of journalists to remain in the Serbian capital when the authorities expelled those from Nato countries at the start of the conflict. “As everyone else was pulling out I decided I would just stay put and see what happened,” he said.
For the next 12 weeks he filed reports every day and often round-the-clock for all BBC outlets, and was the first BBC journalist in a war zone to answer questions from Internet users via BBC News Online. In April 2000, he was named Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year for his reporting of the conflict.
In a career which makes visiting trouble spots a way of life, John says he rarely fears for his safety – even when a Palestinian soldier ordered him to kneel in the road and held a gun to his head. Other close shaves include being shelled in Afghanistan, attacked with poisonous gas in the Gulf and dodging the bullets in Tiannamen Square. He also had the honour as a young reporter of being punched by Harold Wilson for asking whether he was about to call an election.
John was appointed World Affairs Editor in 1988 following periods as Diplomatic Editor and presenter of the Nine O’Clock News. Before that he worked as a correspondent in South Africa, Brussels and Dublin. His first job with the BBC was as a trainee sub editor in Radio News in 1966.
Critical acclaim for his work has included being named Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year (1991), which he shared with the then BBC Political Editor John Cole, a CBE in the Gulf War Honours, an RTS award for International Current Affairs (1996), a Peabody Trust Award for News and The One World Best Bi-Media News award for the Afghanistan trilogy for Newsnight.
Born on 9th August 1944, John was brought up in London and Suffolk and educated at St Paul’s School and Magdalene College, Cambridge where he read English and edited the magazine ‘Granta’. In September 1999, Magdalene College awarded John an honorary fellowship.
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