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International Radio Journalist Shares His Experiences with Trent Community

Ian Docherty"I never ordered the killing of anyone."

These are the words Marcus Wolf, former head of foreign intelligence in East Germany, spoke during a routine sound test as BBC radio producer Ian Docherty checked the levels.

"Most people tell me what they had for breakfast," said Mr. Docherty. "It's obvious this man had a great deal to get off his soul so I knew the interview would go well. It was clear he was a very powerful man. He came from the most secretive state in the world at the time and he was helpless before two small journalists."

It was then that something clicked for Mr. Docherty.

"I developed an idea that I've practiced ever since. If you stay quiet long enough, the more powerful and awful they've been, the more they tell you," he said. It is important not to judge them – at least not until after the interview is over, he added.

That technique of saying as little as possible and listening has worked well for Mr. Docherty. Throughout his 25-year career he has travelled worldwide producing radio documentaries and has overseen political programming on WBUR (a National Public Radio affiliate) out of Boston.

He arrived in Boston in August 2001 just prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What followed was a strange time in journalism.

The White House administration leaned on the media to get behind President George W. Bush. The media also began referencing stories as "we" instead of "the American government," he said.

"Post 9/11 was the single best thing I did. I gathered the presenters and producers together and told them off."

Mr. Docherty berated them for hearing presenters on air speaking for the administration and government.

"We don't speak for the government," he told them. In light of that particular time in American history, "It was the single most unpopular thing I've had to say," Mr. Docherty said. "But journalism's Holy Grail is the search for objectivity."

Mr. Docherty admits personally losing that sense of objectivity while covering the conflict in Yugoslavia.

"Yugoslavia was agony. The soul of Europe broke up." He is visibly moved when he speaks of his experiences in the war-torn country and says he suffered a form of post-traumatic stress disorder related to his time there.

However, it was an April 1, 1999 NATO cruise missile strike that led he and his wife to the decision to start a family.

A friend of Mr. Docherty's was giving birth in a hospital that was struck by a cruise missile. Both mom and baby were all right and Mr. Docherty became godfather to the child.

"Something overwhelmed us about that. It had a profound effect on us," he said.

Mr. Docherty now has a four-year-old daughter and says he has pulled back a long way from his earlier days in journalism.

He does some freelancing, focuses more on news analysis and does some advisory work. He now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife and daughter.

Mr Docherty has won many awards for his journalism, including two Sony Awards and an Andrew Cross Award. He received a special commendation from the Prix Europa for his work in Yugoslavia in 1999. He is also the founder of The Scorpion, a Scottish-based magazine of political satire.

Mr. Docherty, currently visiting Trent University until Friday, November 25, will give a talk on his journalistic experience titled, "I Never Ordered the Killing of Anyone: Identity, Anxiety and the Media."

The talk will take place on Tuesday, November 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Champlain College Council Chambers. A wine and cheese reception will follow in the Champlain College Senior Common Room.

Those wishing to meet with Ian Docherty individually should contact Stephen Brown at or 748-1011 ext. 1238.

Posted November 18, 2005


































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