Interview: Paul Holmes

During his 23 years at Reuters, Paul Holmes has covered the 1991 Gulf War (from both sides), and the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. He's also written about five Olympic Games.

During his 23 years at Reuters, Paul Holmes has covered the 1991 Gulf War (from both sides), and the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. He's also written about five Olympic Games.

As a political and general news editor based in New York, he is responsible for worldwide coverage of diverse issues.

PRWeek: You've seen a lot during your time at Reuters. Are there any particular stories or issues that stick out in your mind?

Paul Holmes: One of my most enduring memories was watching Pope John Paul II meet Nelson Mandela in Pretoria. Another story was the case of a 5-year-old girl in Sarajevo in the mid-'90s. She was badly wounded in a mortar attack that killed her mother and sister. She was dying, and the only reason was because the hospital did not have the equipment to test her. The United Nations said it was not able to evacuate her from Sarajevo. I got onto the story with a colleague from BBC and it got enormous global interest. In the end, the British government sent a military plane to Sarajevo to evacuate this girl to a hospital in London. And 80 other wounded children and their families were airlifted out of Sarajevo. I think it's one of the few occasions in my career when I can point to a story I wrote and say I helped save people's lives.

PRWeek: How well does the US media cover global issues?

Holmes: There are newspapers and broadcasters in the US with an outstanding track record of covering international news. But speaking more broadly, the US is not as interested in the rest of the world as the rest of the world is interested in America. That is a pity. As human beings, we have a lot to learn from each other.

PRWeek: What is Reuters' policy on anonymous sources?

Holmes: We will use them when there is no other way for us to get information. We wouldn't use an anonymous source to report hearsay or make a contentious statement. And we'd always prefer an on-the-record source to an anonymous source.

PRWeek: Do you have advice for PR pros working with Reuters?

Holmes: What helps in dealing with a PR pro is that they know, or do their best to know, what sort of stories to pitch you. There is nothing worse than getting bombarded with stories that you know aren't a good fit for you. The second thing is honesty. I realize as a journalist that a PR pro can't always tell you everything. However, one should reasonably expect that they will not lie to you or mislead you. There has to be a relationship of trust, and that applies to both sides. The PR people have to be able to trust that journalists will report accurately and fairly. In turn, we must be able to trust that they will not give us a bum steer. The final thing I expect is access. The best PR pros get you access to the decision makers in their organizations, rather than act as a gatekeeper or filter and bring information back to you.

Name: Paul Holmes

Outlet: Reuters

Title: Editor, political and general news

Preferred contact method: paul.holmes@reuters.com

Website: www.reuters.com

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