Freelance Journalist Focus: David Bentley

David Bentley is a freelance journalist who focuses on air transport. His work has appeared in Airport Investor Monthly, Airport World and Routes News, the Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune and Crain’s business newspapers as well as BBC and CNN.

FeaturesExec caught up with David to discuss his work, his plans to visit LA and what he’s reading at the moment.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I write mainly about air transport, a business I’ve worked in for over 25 years, but the growth of aviation (or lack of it) has implications for tourism, and it’s impossible to avoid politics of course. Many of my recent articles have focused on government interference in aviation. Occasionally I digress completely and attempt to write about contemporary rock music, which I’ve rediscovered during the last couple of years, but I admit to being at the bottom of a steep learning curve there.

Where are we likely to see your work?
Mainly in specialised publications such as Airport Investor Monthly (I am the Consulting Editor) and other subscription and web-based reports published by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation; also the Airfinance Annual (Euromoney), Airport World and Routes News but I occasionally turn up in the general media, such as the Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune and Crain’s business newspapers. I contribute as frequently as I can to television and radio, most often the BBC and CNN internationally, and local stations.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Rather than one piece of work I would say it is the monthly series of articles I have written for AV News Latin America and Caribbean since 2004. The publication is the premier source of news and information on aviation matters for the whole of Latin America. The feature article I write is under the title ‘Letter from Europe’ and is loosely modelled on Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America, although that was obviously in a different class altogether, as well as being a radio broadcast that ran for 58 years. Nevertheless I like to think it helps the readers understand what is happening in another, quite different continent, and why.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I suppose many of my peers would like to interview a ‘celebrity’ like Richard Branson, but celebrity leaves me cold. I much prefer to write leader columns where I can attempt to influence contemporary thinking on a topic. However, I would like to host a debate with Giovanni Bisignani, Director General of the International Air Transport Association representing the world’s airlines on one side, and Angela Gittens, the Director General of Airports Council International on the other. It would make the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thriller in Manila look like a playground squabble amongst five year-olds.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Literally from anywhere. I keep a constant eye on events through several different types of media. Fortunately I have access to some of the most comprehensive news gatherers and generators in my business and can anticipate when a story is likely to break that might lead to an interesting article.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Fortunately, I wear several other hats, one of which is that of a researcher/consultant, again in the air transport business. When I was a small child my hero wasn’t a footballer but Patrick Moore! I was obsessed with astronomy and could name every constellation and most of the stars in them when I was four. Unfortunately, it is too late to pursue that option professionally now and in any case I’m more given to navel gazing than star gazing these days. I’ve also dabbled in politics but perhaps its better not to mention that just now!

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’m planning a trip to Los Angeles, which I think, for better or worse, is the most fascinating place on earth, but one I haven’t visited for 20 years. I’d set myself a target of five or six published articles out of such a visit – each on a different subject – the whole of human life is there. It would also give me the opportunity to watch some of my favourite rock acts in concert as many are based there and gig most often in and around the city. Hopefully that would also help me to hone my writing skills in the rock arena.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
“All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” (Professor Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide)
“Always look on the bright side of life” (Eric Idle, Monty Python)
“When seagulls follow a trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea” (Eric Cantona, footballer and actor)

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Various tour guides to Los Angeles and Southern California.
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe – I re-read it constantly and have done since 1989. It never dates, especially since Wall Street greed came back into ‘fashion’ and is side-splittingly funny.
L’Etranger (The Outsider) by Albert Camus. The best, most profound novel I ever read. Camus’ premature accidental death was disastrous. He could have been one of the greatest writers ever.
I buy few magazines but am inundated with free ‘trade’ ones.
Too busy writing my own blogs and Twitter stuff to read others, apart from those of my favoured musicians, especially the wonderful Polly Scattergood, who never ceases to make me smile. As she says at the end of each one, Over n Out.
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