UPDATED: Mirror journalist says don’t let technology stop you witnessing history

Jeremy Armstrong, Daily Mirror

Jeremy Armstrong, Daily Mirror

One of only a dozen journalists allowed into court for the trial of Josef Fritzl today warned young hopefuls about over-reliance on technology in modern journalism.

Jeremy Armstrong, the Daily Mirror’s north east news and sport correspondent, told students there was no substitute for experiencing things in real life, and went on to tell about the horror of the Josef Fritzl trial.

Jeremy said: “When they opened the evidence bags in court you could smell the squalor the kids had lived in.

“It was a damp awful smell. It’s not something you could have experienced in any other way.

“When Fritzl walked into the court room he had a lever arch file covering his head, because he was so ashamed of what he had done.

“Everyone felt strongly he should have justice. Seeing him, ashamed, hiding his face was intense. I felt really privileged to be there, to see it first-hand.”

Fritzl kept his daughter captive for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, locking them all in his cellar. He was convicted in 2009 for murder through neglect, rape, incest and enslaving his daughter.

Jeremy, who was sent to Austria for the trial due to being able to speak German, said: “I managed to get into the trial because I was number 13 on the list. There was only room for 12, but an American journalist decided to report from outside the courtroom instead, so I got in.

“In the days of observing things through a phone you can’t replace actually being there. That is your primary role as a journalist. Standing outside the courtroom, you miss the drama.

“You can pilfer from websites and Facebook but nothing replaces you being there.

“These kids had lived without sunshine, without light, without being able to raise their heads. Actually being in the courtroom, realising what these children had grown up with, you could smell the imprisonment, the conditions, you could sense it and feel it in the courtroom.”

He also talked about one of his career highlights – being at the Beijing Olympics,  and seeing Usain Bolt dancing on the start line.

He said: “The best thing about it was the silence just as the gun came down. I can’t even describe what it feels like to be there. Just being a part of something so brilliant.”

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