97-year-old British Israeli wins Guinness record for oldest journalist in the world
JTA – When Walter Bingham moved to Israel after a long career as a British radio host, he applied for a job with Kol Israel, one of the country’s leading broadcasters.
He came for an interview but was rejected: at 80, Bingham was told, he was past the station’s mandatory retirement age.
Other journalists might have retired. Bingham didn’t. The experience, he said, made him “realize that this is a very old country.”
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Undeterred, he continued to find work opportunities.
Seventeen years later, Bingham is still not retired. And this month, at 97, he was certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s longest-serving journalist.
âI actually feel pretty young,â he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as he recently sat in his home office just steps from bustling Hillel Street in downtown Jerusalem. âOn a good day, I feel like I’m 40; a bad day 50. ”
This is the second such record for Bingham, a radio journalist who was once an actor and model. In 2017, he was certified by Guinness as the ‘Longest-serving Radio Talk Show Host’ – the latest in a series of accolades that include a British Military Award for Bravery in WWII and the French Legion of Honor.
Host of the ongoing Walter’s World program on Israel’s National Radio, a right-wing news site based in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, Bingham has been a fixture on press tours, press conferences and other events across Israel since his emigration. London in 2004. Known for his blue Breton cap, audio recorder and handgun kept in a holster on his hip, he is a sight familiar to members of the foreign media here, of whom Brigham cites the company as one. reasons why he feels so young. .
âI have a lot of young friends,â he says. âAnd when I’m with them, I feel young. The only time I realize I’m old is when I walk past a mirror.
Born Wolfgang Billig in Weimar, Germany, in 1924, Bingham was a teenager when he was brought to England as a refugee, one of thousands rescued as part of Kindertransport’s effort to save Jewish children from Nazism . Her father died in the Warsaw ghetto. His mother survived, eventually joining him in England.
During the war he joined the British Expeditionary Force and anglicized his name to Walter Bingham, so that he would not be mistreated if captured by the Nazis. He served as an ambulance driver during the D-Day invasion of 1944, and in the same year he earned a Bravery Citation: he saved soldiers under enemy fire after the Germans knocked out his ambulance, injuring his medic and killing an officer.
Brigham, a native German speaker, was then transferred to intelligence, where he was involved in the initial questioning of the captured Germans. One, he said, was Foreign Secretary Joachim von Ribbentrop, who Bingham said denied knowing the final solution. Bingham says he was “really a fake”.
Returning to Britain after the war, he held various jobs before responding to an ad for help on a local radio station. His initial assignment of answering phones for a dial-up show led to a series of “odd jobs” before he eventually became a host of Jewish-themed shows on London stations Spectrum and Sound Radio.
He also obtained degrees in philosophy and politics and a pilot’s license.
To earn some more money, Bingham dabbled in modeling and acting, he recalls, describing a series of jobs over the years that included playing Darwin in a documentary, A Wizard Backwards- shot of two “Harry Potter” movies and Santa Claus at Harrods Department Store.
He once claimed to be a homeless beggar on the street for an article in the Daily Mail while a photographer was hiding in a nearby cafe. Like many of his other concerts, Bingham said he was given this job because of his large, bushy beard. This news article is now framed next to her office door alongside ad clippings featuring her distinctive facial hair cast in outrageous styles. One for Virgin Cola features a sunglasses clad Bingham with a forked beard.
Along the way, Bingham married and had a daughter, who is over 70 and also lives in Jerusalem. He also has two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Bingham had always wanted to live in Israel, but his wife preferred to stay in London. She died in 1990 and in 2004, at the age of 80, Bingham made the move on his own. Before arriving in Israel, he was contacted by Yishai Fleisher, who at the time was hosting a program on Israel’s National Radio. Fleischer asked Bingham to document his preparations in an ongoing series of daily 10-minute spots.
After Kol Israel’s refusal, Bingham went to visit Fleischer in Beit El, where he was asked to continue his series of short spots, this time documenting his new life in Israel. Within weeks, Bingham was offered his own program, which he is working on from his office here. The show opens with the theme song “Superman” and introduces Bingham as “the dean of the airwaves”. On a broadcast in early January, he said his New Year’s resolution was to learn a few words of Hebrew every day.
Bingham’s office functions as a remembrance room for his roughly 70-year career. His walls are covered with certificates of achievement, military awards, his Guinness Records, and photos he took with prominent figures such as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The room is dominated by a huge office where he edits and downloads his show.
Of course, technology has changed dramatically since its inception, Bingham said, describing once having to cut sections of reel-to-reel tape and re-glue them with duct tape – a process that has been replaced by SD cards and tape. ‘audio. – editing software.
But as the equipment has evolved, the craft remains the same, he said, insisting that it is essential for young journalists to learn to listen and not to express their own opinions in an interview.
âA lot of times I see supposed interviews where the interviewer talks more than the interviewee,â he said. âAsk questions and let them answer fully. Don’t keep interrupting yourself. If it is pre-recorded, you can still edit parts [in which] you think the interviewee took too long. “
While Bingham says he’s open about his opinions, he believes many contemporary heterosexual journalists let their unconscious biases affect their work.
âToday, these are all opinions,â he said. âThis is the main change I see. When you read a newspaper, it’s an opinion, not the facts.
Fleischer, now the spokesperson for the Jewish settlement of Hebron, still admires Bingham, telling JTA that he “has a unique tenacity for life and tenacity to get the story, but also the tenacity to live fully.
Bingham, Fleisher said, brings “a tremendous amount of perspective on the story and shows a lot of personal courage, and has a taste for life.”
Steve Linde, a longtime friend of Bingham’s and editor of the Jerusalem Report, wrote in an email that Bingham reaching the Guinness World Record is a testament to his persistence. He added that Bingham had a “wicked sense of humor”.
âWhat I admire most about him is that he never gives up,â Linde wrote. âI once asked him why he didn’t use a cane, and he replied that if he starts using one, he will always depend on it. He is fiercely independent and has strong opinions on just about everything. But it is his passion for life, for people and for the truth that are perhaps his most remarkable qualities.
When asked if he plans to retire, he quips that he must have looked up that word in the dictionary.
âI will not retire,â he said. “I will continue as long as possible.”