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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 11/98: Crossing continents  
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Crossing continents Wednesday, 10 March, 1999, 18:41 GMT
The voices of Crossing Continents

JULIAN PETTIFER started working in television during the early days of ITV but soon moved to the BBC as a globetrotting reporter for programmes such as Tonight, Twenty-four Hours and Panorama. During this time he covered many international news stories and was made BAFTA Reporter of the Year for his coverage of the war in Vietnam in 1968.

He then moved to documentaries and wrote and presented a number of acclaimed programmes for both the BBC and ITV including Diamonds in the Sky - a look at the social impact of international air travel; Automania - an extensive history of the motor car, and Missionaries - which traced the remarkable story of missionaries around the world.

An interest in the environment saw a change in direction of Julian's journalistic career and in recent years he has written and presented many programmes concerned with the environment and wildlife including Naturewatch for Central Television and Nature and The Living Isles for the BBC. He is President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Vice-chairman of the British Wildlife Appeal.

Most recently Julian has returned to the world of current affairs, contributing many excellent reports for BBC Television's Assignment and Correspondent programmes and a highly praised film for Channel 4 that re-examined the reporting of the Vietnam war. He also presented Radio 4's Asiafile (which Crossing Continents replaces) and this year received a Sony Award for the programme's coverage of the death of Deng Xiaoping.

MERIEL BEATTIE was born 34 years ago in South Wales to very Scottish parents - and due to their homesickness, she got used to travel early on, as from infancy she adapted to being stuffed in the car and making the long drive to the north west highlands (with only essential toilet stops) for every single vacation. Later on the family extended their wanderlust still further when her father, a physicist, got a job in Kenya.

After school in Wales, she studied French and German at Oxford - another opportunity to travel in the name of study ! In the third year she wangled a job teaching English in an Austrian ski-resort, which didn't do much for anyone's grasp of the subjunctive, but did wonders for her parallel turns on the slopes. After a year at Cardiff University post-grad centre for Journalism Studies, she joined Reuters as a trainee journalist.

Meriel's first posting was to Vienna - then the Reuters East European headquarters - supposedly for a year, with the warning that it would "probably be boring". That was 1988: and less than a year later the whole communist eastern bloc started to collapse. She ended up spending five and a half years there and in hotel rooms, living out of suitcases.

She joined the BBC in 1993, and moved to Budapest - and reported on how many of the countries in the region who had voted socialist parties OUT of power in 89 went and voted them back in again. On her return to the UK in '96 she began working for Europe Today at the BBC World Service - but found it slightly strange living in one place for long periods. The perfect solution arrived with the launch of Crossing Continents in 1998.

Originally from Cornwall, ROSIE GOLDSMITH started travelling at an early age. At six weeks old she was whisked off by her parents to southern Africa. She lived for three years in what was then Rhodesia and then two years in South Africa where her father worked as a schoolteacher. When she was 10 the family went West instead of South and Rosie found herself going to school in Manhattan.

Not surprisingly she read languages - French and German - at the University of Nottingham. She then left the UK for Germany for seven years in Germany, where in between working as a freelance reporter for the BBC and Deutschewelle, she went on long train journeys across Eastern Europe where communism was just about to crumble.

When the Berlin Wall did finally come down in 1989 Rosie was working as one of the launch team of Radio 4's Eurofile, the UK's first weekly programme about Europe for a domestic audience. At Eurofile she specialised in the southern Balkans and has particularly fond memories of being one of the first Western journalists to go to Albania after the demise of Enver Hoxha and of her cheek being grazed by a bullet as she drove into the Albanian mountains.

Rosie took a break from Eurofile in 1996 to work with no fewer than three former prime ministers on documentaries about their countries - Australia, Canada and New Zealand - and those countries' relations with the UK.

And in 1997 Rosie became the series producer of Asiafile, a real boon for Rosie's colourful wardrobe which has now expanded to include a closet full of Indian saris, Pakistani shalwar kameez and Chinese qipaos. She also won a Sony silver award this year for the programme's coverage of the death of Deng Xiaoping.

TIM WHEWELL started his career in international journalism closer to home, by working for a local paper, the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, after reading Russian at Oxford and attending the Cardiff School of Journalism.

He began his career at the BBC as a talks writer at Bush House, specialising in Russian affairs. From 1990 to 1993 he was the BBC World Service Moscow correspondent, and was one of only three Western journalists to be present throughout the three days of siege of the White House in 1993. It certainly demanded a steady nerve to broadcast from the building - at one point he had to work underneath a table for fear of snipers. Later, he returned to the World Service at Bush House.

Recently he has been working across the BBC; his work has included both presenting and producing for 5 Live's morning programme, The Magazine. His own feature, 'Mad Magazines', looking at eccentric publications from around the world, made for cult listening. He has made a four-part radio documentary series, The Windy Sea, on the oil boom in the ex-USSR republics bordering the Caspian Sea, and films for BBC Television's Correspondent programme on the new scourges of drug addiction in the Ukraine and corruption in Kalmykia.

OLENKA FRENKIEL joined the BBC's News Training Scheme straight after completing her degree at Sussex University, and then went to work for BBC Belfast for two years. Moving on to the Today programme on Radio 4, she was a general reporter, before joining the teams for the world current affairs television programmes Newsnight and Assignment.

She was the first reporter on the Berlin Wall on November 8th, 1989 - and received one of the first bricks to be taken from it as the bulldozers moved in. Her television work on Assignment, and later its successor Correspondent, has included interviewing some of Italy's top anti-mafia judges, uncovering the roots of a boom in evangelical Protestantism in Brazil, and two films, Murder in Purdah and License to Kill, exposing the level of 'honour killings' of women in Pakistan.

In 1996 she began to present Eurofile for Radio 4 and was hence a natural choice for Crossing Continents. Olenka speaks five languages and is married with three children.

JOHN EGAN, originally from Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland, studied psychology at University College Dublin before going on to do a post-graduate diploma in journalism.

In between he travelled widely and worked as a freelance photo-journalist. A notable assignment for National Geographic Magazine involved retracing the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts in their search for the legendary Golden Fleece. John was part of an international crew which rowed the replica Mycenaean galley, 1500 miles from Volos in northern Greece to Poti in what was then Soviet Georgia. Over a three month period, the average rowing speed was 2 miles an hour! Other asssignments have involved hot air ballooning in the Swiss Alps, riding with cowboys in Wyoming and travelling by dugout canoe in the Niger Delta.

Having worked as a reporter and presenter on RTE for seven years, John joined the BBC in 1994 and now works mainly on The World Tonight - specialising in foreign affairs. He has covered many major stories in Africa, including the first democratic elections in South Africa, the genocide in Rwanda and the hanging of the environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa in Nigeria. Closer to home he has reported extensively on the myriad twists in the Northern Ireland peace process from the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 to the recent suspension of devoled powers.

CAROLINE WYATT was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1967 and adopted by a British diplomat father, and his Swiss wife. She grew up moving house - and even continent - every two or three years, which gave her a lasting taste for travel. It was also excellent training for the peripatetic life of a BBC foreign correspondent.

Stability set in at the age of 10 when she was exiled to a convent boarding school in Surrey, where learning to cook, sew and shop were high on the agenda as the nuns prepared their girls for a life of motherhood and marital bliss. She showed an early talent for shopping, though was less successful at making lemon curd and baby-smocks.

Sadly, the nuns' plans went awry when Caroline moved to West Berlin at the age of 15 during the height of the Cold War, and discovered a more decadent side to life in that divided city. She spent a disastrous 'year off' after school working at the Deutsche Bank. Or rather a disastrous four months. The bank decided to bid her 'auf wiedersehen' and farewell - suggesting she might be happier in a job where numeracy was not quite so essential. However, all the tourists who'd unexpectedly quadrupled their money when changing deutschmarks into foreign currency at Caroline's exchange booth were probably very sad to see her leave. Thankfully, her next job - as a dogsbody at a local TV and radio station in Berlin proved rather more suitable.

After gaining a degree from Southampton University in English and ungrammatical German (growing up speaking Swiss-German is not necessarily an advantage - it's described as a language that resembles having a sore throat), Caroline spent a year studying periodical journalism at City University in London. After a stint travelling Australia as a freelance writer, she joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1991 to concentrate on loftier topics.

Caroline spent two years moving around the BBC - from the Radio 4 Newsroom, to the One and Six O'Clock News, Newsroom Southeast, World Service Radio, Westminster, and even Radio WM in Birmingham - before settling briefly as an assistant producer at the newly-born World TV.

In November 1993, she abandoned London and returned to Berlin as a stringer. Caroline was thrilled to find herself in a city that now had no Wall and was brimming with stories, as easterners and westerners came to terms with life in a unified nation. One of her first actions was to interview the man who'd sacked her from the Deutsche Bank, and enjoy watching his horror as he realised she was there to cover business as well. In 1997, Caroline moved to the old West German capital, otherwise known as the federal village of Bonn, to become the BBC Bonn Correspondent. Between occasional jaunts to Baghdad or Brussels, March 1999 will bring another move - back to the German capital, as BBC Berlin Correspondent, just in time for the new government's ceremonial opening of the revamped Reichstag German Parliament building this April.

JAMES PROCTOR joined Crossing Continents for a special report, taking a break from his usual work onGlobal, Radio 5 Live's weekend world news programme.

James was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in August 1967. He was educated at Horbury School, near Wakefield and went to the University of Salford gaining a 2:1 degree in Modern Languages - Swedish, German and French. After University James attended the Falmouth School of Art and Design where he obtained a diploma in Radio Journalism.

He started his career as a translator at Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm in Munich and also taught at the Clermont-Ferrand University in France.

He joined the BBC in 1990 as a Reporter and Newsreader at BBC Radio Sheffield. He also worked stints at Radio's York and Cleveland. Between 1994-1995 he worked as the BBC's Swedish correspondent. Some of the news stories he has covered include the sinking of the Estonia ferry and Sweden's entry in to the European Union, many of these as presenter for the daily Radio 5 Live programme Euronews.

As well as being able to speak Swedish, German, French, Italian, Romanian, Danish and Norwegian, James is currently learning Icelandic. In April 1997 James wrote The Rough Guide to Sweden. He now lives in West London but he loves to return to Yorkshire to go walking in the Dales.

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