Sky's Mick Deane: 'We can't let the bad guys win, the people rely on us to be their voice' - Press Gazette

Sky's Mick Deane: 'We can't let the bad guys win, the people rely on us to be their voice'

Sky News presenter Jeremy Thompson pays tribute to Mick Deane, the cameraman who was shot dead covering the suppression of protests in Egypt on 14 August

A bullet from a faceless gunman. A cold, calculated, cowardly way to end the life of one of the warmest, bravest, kindest, funniest men I ever knew. 

Mick Deane died as he lived, doing his best. Doing his best to open the eyes of the world to injustice. Doing his best for his mates. And he never did less than his best. An indefatigable warrior of the TV news business, he was the ultimate professional, delivering quality pictures and intuitive editorial judgement whatever the place, whatever the pressure. 

A big man in every way. A rock for those around him. The heart of every team he worked with. Mick, full of wicked wit and wonderful wisdom. Sage, sane and humble, he was the man we all wanted to work with, whatever the assignment. Not just a great cameraman-editor but a brilliant bloke. 

The news of his death in Cairo on sent shock waves through the whole television news industry. It was as if everyone knew him or felt they did, such was his impact on all those he came into contact with. 

As Sky correspondent Emma Hurd said: "He was just a wonderful human being.  I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him. What a rare thing in this business." 

The tributes have come in torrents ever since. Everyone's hurting at the loss of Mick Deane. 

I first recruited Mick to ITN when I was starting up a new Asia Bureau in Hong Kong in 1988. He was just the man I needed. An excellent cameraman, who could edit too. But also a great travelling companion – unflappable, grounded, worldly-wise and above all funny. You need a lot of humour to gather news in strange and faraway places. 

The third member of our team, Andy Rex, now ITN's cameraman in Africa, remembers the weeks we spent covering the student uprising in Tiananman Square in 1989. "Mick called it the Long March or at least the 10K march" as we filmed the daily walk with the students from university to the square. 

Mick soon became a highly visible and much loved figure in the square, this tall, fair-haired, moustached man with a camera on his shoulder towering above the thousands of black-haired protesters. They seemed to instinctively trust Mick as a man who would tell their story to the world. 

The international media in China were stunned and humbled at how the regime could crush this bid for democracy before our very eyes. The cameras of the world had proved to be no protection against a ruthless authoritarian government.

Mick felt the injustice. "We can't let the bad guys win", he told me at the time. "The people rely on us guys to be their voice."

When Mark Austin, now an ITN newscaster, took over the bureau from me, it was his first stint as a foreign correspondent and he was ever grateful for Mick's experience. "He was my guiding hand through the forbidding news jungle of Asia.

"He would know when to go, when not to go. He would know which airline to fly, where to stay, who to talk to, who to rely on and who to ignore. He would know drivers, local fixers and people you could trust."

"He was an 'everything will be fine’ man and when you’re an insecure, uncertain novice trying to make your way in this game he was indispensable."

Austin recalls how they went undercover to North Korea, posing as teachers. "Mick put geography teacher on his form and maths teacher on mine, knowing full well it was my worst subject at school. And how he laughed when the headmaster of a school in Pyongyang invited me to take a lesson.

"On day three of a five day trip he sensed they had rumbled us and pushed me to leave. I resisted, but he didn’t fancy being banged up in a North Korean jail and found a way to get us out".

Certainly Mick wouldn't want a North Korean cell or anything else to keep him from his beloved family. Mick was always itching to get home to Hong Kong to be with his journalist wife Daniela and their young boys, Patrick and Ben.

Rex recalls Mick telling him: "Andy take it from me, Family first, then the job and you'll always be happy."

Many years later Ben Evansky, now with Fox News, was Mick's producer in Sky's Washington Bureau. "Deano was at my wedding, he met my kids, he was interested in them and my life and always taught me  the importance of being with your children as much as you could as they grow up so quickly and you don't want to miss it."

My Sky News colleague Ian Woods remembers a story they filmed together of an American father who had lost his soldier son in Iraq and had written to President Bush. "Mick filmed it all…including shots of the dad tending his son's grave and then when he was finished put down the camera and sobbed his heart out because he was thinking of how he'd feel if his sons died."

Mick wanted to make amends for the lack of happiness in his own childhood as an 'Army brat' born in Germany. He and his brother left an oppressive home as soon as they could and fended for themselves through their teens.

It gave Mick a sense of self-dependence and adventure that saw him sailing round the Mediterranean and ending up in Italy working on the Goodyear airship display team.

It was in Rome that he met Daniela, who soon decided he was ideally suited for TV news. She introduced Mick to CNN cameraman Ron Dean, who taught him how to shoot pictures. Before long Mick was teaching others.

Mati Kerpen, a young Fox News intern, is one of so many inspired by Mick's help. "Mick Deane did for me something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. He taught me. From the first day I met him until the last conversation I had with him a few months ago."

Mick made a positive mark wherever he worked. No wonder he was in such demand – working for CNN, NBC, ITN, the BBC and Sky News.

Sandy MacIntyre, from APTN, says: "A generation of AP cameramen and producers learned how to succeed and how do so with such great integrity, boundless energy and legendary sense of humour because of Mick's quiet mentoring."

The more any of us worked with Mick, the more we realised how special he was. He had an uncanny knack for the seeing the pictures that would make the story. And could salvage a news package with the quality of his camerawork.

As we say in the trade, he could turn a shambles into the Shalimar Gardens.

Or as Sky correspondent Stuart Ramsay put it rather vividly: "Mick made shite packages broadcastable. He'd say 'Stuart we just made chicken salad from chicken shit' – it was always amazing when he said it and we had done it."

Deano had more editorial nous than almost anyone I ever met in 40 years of TV news. He not only shot the pictures and cut the pictures, he could pretty much write the story too. As he sometimes quietly said to me: "Hey JT, if you could just turn that sentence upside down the pictures would really appreciate it!"

Veteran CBS Correspondent Allen Pizzey sums up what Mick meant to those at the sharp end of newsgathering: "When you hit a story, especially in a bad place, one of the best things to hear was Mick’s cheery greeting from across a hotel breakfast room.

"Anyone who ever met Mick knew he was a go-to guy for the best kind of intell you can get when you come in cold, the intell of what’s happening on the ground.”

He was also unfailingly funny and resilient, keeping up spirits when others were flagging.

Fellow cameraman Allen McGreevy remembers how Mick lost the coin toss and became pool camera alone on Capitol Hill during Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings. Not too bad until the ice storm swept in and left Mick frozen in, like the abominable snowman.

"When I reached Mick there he was standing next to his camera with a thick layer of ice all over him from head to toe, he had been outside for 13 hours," McGreevy told me. "We chipped free the tripod and camera and left everything else there as it was frozen solid to the ground.

"On the drive back to the office, Mick says to me 'Hey Al any chance we can skip the coin toss tomorrow and I can do the editing’.”

From freezing to sweating, Mick just kept working.

Fellow Sky presenter Andrew Wilson still chuckles at the sight of Deano sitting editing at the side of the road with a towel over his head in the stifling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But still having time to be “furious at how FEMA and the local cops just sat around doing nothing. He hated Bush for failing to help."

I fondly remember Mick working on, covered in ash, as we reported live on the volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat in 1997.

Hardly surprising then that Mick had the will, the strength and the stamina to fight cancer and win a few years ago and return to work as keen as ever.

How tragic, how unjust that a man courageous enough to beat cancer should be felled by a remote round fired by someone he never knew, someone who never even looked him in the eye.

Mick's death is a brutal reminder that it is becoming ever more dangerous to report the news from the world's trouble spots.

Yet all those who knew and loved Mick are certain that he would never want risk to be a reason for retreat. Like all of us, he went to tough places because he believed the world needed and deserved to know the truth.

He died filming. His dramatic footage led the news. The men with guns couldn't stop his pictures exposing the horrible reality.

Stuart Ramsay had these heartfelt words for all Mick's colleagues: "We bear witness. We may not see our final report. We do it to save people and to stop bad things. It is what we do and you should be proud of that because few can do it. It isn't a job. It's an honour. Never forget that. But it is what we do. It often tears you apart when friends are lost. But if we don't stand up then the bastards will win, always."

Jeff Martino, a cameraman who worked alongside Mick in the US and had known him for 30 years, echoed what most of us feel: "I am so heartbroken. What a wonderful man. He always made me laugh.

"He had no idea how many people loved him, who were touched by him.  It was an honour to share my life and times with him and I am so much richer to have known him."

He was a man we were all proud to call a friend and a comrade in news.

Mick had been planning to retire next May in the house he and Daniela built together overlooking the beautiful Lake Bracciano just north of Rome.

Peace was so near. It all seems so unfair.



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