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Arthur John Osman

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The great John Osman? was the description employed about the author of this book by BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson when singling out Osman for attention while writing in The Guardian about foreign correspondents. That was upon the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC Radio 4 programme From Our Own Correspondent, in 2005. Then, in December 2010, the BBC director of news at the time, Helen Boaden (now director of radio) informed Osman, in a letter to him about Helen Boaden the problems faced today by broadcasting journalism, that he was ?remembered as one of the great BBC correspondents in the pioneering days?.

During his career, he pulled off numerous scoops, recalled for what the news itself was: not news as a way of polishing a television, radio, Internet, or journalistic image. Osman belonged to a generation of journalists who, broadly speaking, thought that a reporter?s self-effacement, so far as possible, was the best way of seeking truth.

In this book, he breaks with the habit of a lifetime. He expresses personal views upon the famous or infamous people he met and the events that he covered. He comments upon developments flowing from them that constitute what he describes as ?unfinished stories?. Many people might find his views infuriating; others might agree; and some might be moved to wry laughter, just as the author himself often was. In offering his thoughts for display and doubtless criticism, the author hopes that at least they will not be found boring.

Osman has travelled in one hundred countries over sixty years, and he held several of the world?s top journalistic jobs as a foreign correspondent. He thinks he remains to this day the only BBC staffer to have been, for some years in each post, BBC Washington correspondent, BBC Moscow correspondent, and BBC Buckingham Palace correspondent ? a rare combination of major assignments. In addition to those posts, he served BBC Radio and TV News and the World Service during a quarter of a century or so in roles as varied as BBC Commonwealth and colonial affairs correspondent, United Nations correspondent, Africa correspondent, and diplomatic correspondent. Earlier, for nearly ten years, he worked for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph as their special correspondent in the Middle East and Cyprus, Africa, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sikkim, his assignments including the flight from Tibet in 1959 of the Dalai Lama. One of his dispatches appeared in the first columns of the Sunday Telegraph upon its initial publication in February 1961.

Married twice, he has three children from his first marriage in 1951. That ended in divorce in 1970. In the same year, he remarried. His new bride was Virginia Waite, herself a well-known writer, journalist, and broadcaster. The couple have been wed for forty-four years. Osman is now eighty-five and has ideas for producing three other very different kinds of books to this one before he reaches one hundred or dies. He skied until he was eighty-three; still goes mountain walking (the pair were members of the French Alpine Club for thirty years); sailed until recently in Virginia?s little yacht, ?Circe?, anchored in Paphos Harbour in Cyprus but just sold by his wife; and (camping most of the time) they drive their small Romahome camping-car all over the place ? including, in recent years, through twenty countries in West Europe, East Europe, and the Balkans, as far as Capadoccia in Asian Turkey. When not so occupied, they share their time between their cottage in West Sussex, a little house they bought thirty-four years ago in the French Pyrenees, a small apartment in Paphos, and the family in England.

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