In a new series on S4C, different reporters will be tracing the history of past reporters who have made an extraordinary contribution to journalism. The first programme, Y Gohebwyr: Guto Harri will broadcast on Sunday 8 June on S4C.
What attracts a person into journalism? The determination to get to the truth, the desire for an adventure, the opportunity to travel, being a witness to some of the world’s milestone events, and seeing people wielding or yielding power, being immortalised or being destroyed.
For Gareth Jones, from Barry, it was the combination of all these elements that attracted him to journalism.
Guto will trace the history of journalist Gareth Jones from Barry, in the first programme of the series. Guto, who’s originally from Hensall, Vale of Glamorgan but moved to Cardiff when he was young, was a news reporter for 18 years, before being a Communications Director for Boris Johnson, and currently a Director of Communications at News UK.
Gareth Jones’ biggest career scoop came in 1933, when he took advantage of his connection with Lloyd George to arrange a visit to Kharkov, the Ukrainian capital at the time. Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine he stepped off the train and began an unauthorized three day journey on foot through the broken countryside. What he saw and heard became the basis for a series of articles which have been described as some of the most important journalistic writings of the first half of the 20th century. He was the first Western journalist to put his name to a story about mass starvation and suffering which Stalin and his Communist regime tried to keep hidden for decades.
In Gohebwyr: Guto Harri we’ll see Guto Harri, who’s 47 years old, visiting Kiev and Kharkiv in the Ukraine, during the Spring of last year, and Guto says that Russia’s influence on the Ukraine was obvious.
“Watching the events make it very real for me. When I was in Kharkiv, there was a feeling that they were scared of Russia, democracy was fragile, and there was no indigenous belief in free speech within them. Russia has always been a shadow over the Ukraine.”
As well as travelling to the Ukraine, we’ll also see Guto tracing Gareth’s footsteps in New York, all around Wales, and London, and discovering things about his eventful but short life. He will also try and get to the bottom of Gareth’s brutal and odd murder in Mongolia, on the eve of his 30th birthday.
When Gareth was 27 years old when he worked for a while in the Black Mountains, and enjoyed learning about Wales and meeting ordinary people. The lives of ordinary people were at the heart of his journalism at all times
Gareth Jones was a journalist in a period of political change in Europe, when a number of countries in Europe were turning towards political extremism. In Gohebwyr: Guto Harri we will also see old footage of Gareth in the company of Adolf Hitler in 1933.
Guto, who now lives in London, was a witness to the end of these changes in Europe, as a foreign correspondent he saw the collapse of communism.
“He was a special, and recorded everything in his diary, or in letters.” Guto says about Gareth Jones. “He was a direct witness to one of the most evil figures the world has ever seen, when he went on a plane with Goebbels and Adolf Hitler, when I read that I felt a shiver going down my spine. That’s the appeal of journalism, at its best – you’re close to the locations and characters that shape our lives,” says Guto.
Gareth Jones’ life story isn’t well known but Guto felt that his mysterious life needed to be researched;
“Now, I only present about one programme a year, and its lovely doing something in Welsh. His story appealed to me, because it’s somewhat parallel to mine. And it also appealed because here’s a man from south Wales who’s reached the top, and had a massive scoop by being brave and daring. And the question is what would have happened if he had stayed alive, would he be one of the famous journalists of his era, or a politician? There was a lot of talent, energy and bravery there.”