Oscar Pistorius Trial: What It Takes To Cover The Trial Of The Century

07 August 2014 by

As the judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial prepares to make her verdict, Grazia caught up with Sky News Special Correspondent Alex Crawford, who told us what it really takes to cover the 'trial of the century'... 

Oscar Pistorius In Court

The Oscar Pistorius closing verdict is current happening in South Africa [Getty]

Covering the trial, I’ve been completely out of my comfort zone. I’m much more used to operating within war zones, not the confines of a court room. It’s highly pressured - and a lot to get used to.

I always wake early. I’m out of our lodgings and getting started on work by 6am most mornings during the trial - our first broadcast is the breakfast slot. Then I read the newspapers before getting to court for 9am when my day covering the trial really starts. Every time there’s a break I do a live broadcast, and then a half an hour programme on the trial each evening.

Getting a seat in court isn’t easy. You’d be surprised the lengths that people go to just to ensure a spot. At the first bail application hearings, there were hundreds trying to squeeze into court. American and British newspaper journalists feigned faintness to get in, a British tabloid reporter pretended to be a court artist. Another female reporter burst into tears and cried that she’d lose her job if she couldn’t cover the hearing. It was chaos.

READ MORE: Inside Oscar Pistorius’s Trial... What The Cameras DON’T Show

I’ve never seen a family as close as Oscar’s. It’s one of the things that has stood out most to me throughout the trial. They hug, kiss and hold hands constantly. Actually quite a lot of stories where there’s tragedy it’s heart-warming to see some of the positive things coming through. In their case it’s their extreme loyalty to each other.

June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, has been incredibly brave. She has a whole network of support around her, but they have shown a different - more stoic - side than Oscar’s family. I find their reactions fascinating.

You have to wind down properly working in such a highly pressurised environment. In the evenings after our final report is aired, I’ve been training for a half marathon. No matter what time we finish, the team always eats together after exercising.

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford, Sky News Special Correspondent [Picture: Sky]

Usually it isn’t so easy for me to relax. Covering breaking news around the world, I’ve slept in cow sheds in Nepal, ditches in Syria, on mud with rebels in Libya… But I can’t go anywhere without my sleeping bag liner. I feel quite fanatical about it. The small things make you feel better.

My family travel with me wherever I go. It’s not easy for them. My children have been in schools where regular terrorist drills are necessary, and living in countries like India where it’s not always safe. But they’ve seen so much of the world already. I hope they forgive me for any negative impact my career has had on them.

READ MORE: Is Oscar Pistorius Acting?

Organising my life can be challenging. I never know where I might be from one month to the next - the job takes a huge toll on my personal life and my friendships… luckily I have very good mates, who don’t mind if I vanish for a year. When we eventually meet up, they organise a night down our local pub. Although you make friends at work and travelling, there’s nothing like going home to the people who know everything about you.

I couldn’t imagine doing any other job. Every day is different - there’s no other industry where you can speak to freedom fighters and terrorists, as well as Presidents and Prime Ministers. I see people who can only be described as evil - but I also see incredible bravery and who are generous without measure. It is truly awesome.

When I’m exhausted and feeling the pressure, it’s important to remember that for the Steenkamp and Pistorius families, life has completely changed forever. The whole thing - from Oscar himself overcoming incredible challenges in his own life, to Reeva’s life being so catastrophically cut short - is a true tragedy.

In court, it’s been dramatic. Oscar has been everything from physically ill, vomiting, crying and heaving – to this quiet, controlled irritation and anger. If one thing’s true, the trial itself – and covering it – has been a real rollercoaster.


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