MARTIN Bell OBE, known as ‘the man in the white suit’ and a familiar face on our screens from decades past, was at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy on to meet students and to explore the themes of his new book — War and the Death of News.

In it he provides a moving, personal account of war and issues an impassioned call to put the substance back in our news.

It is a subject on which he can write with great experience and insight. From Vietnam to Bosnia to Iraq, he has witnessed first-hand the dramatic changes in how conflicts are fought and how they are reported.

It was the chance discovery of a box packed with clippings, notebooks and other mementoes of his exploits that prompted Martin to write his latest book.

He told the audience at the academy on Monday that “some things needed to be said”.

“Things sort of came together,” said Martin. “There’s a direction of travel from where we were then, to where we are now.

“The particular scourge of the present time is that websites have come into being, supposed purveyors of news, which make money by publishing deliberate falsehoods.

“I would urge the young to be very careful about their sources of news.”

But what of the change in mainstream outlets too?

“The greatest danger we faced in Bosnia was getting caught in the crossfire,” he said, drawing a distinction between the risk of kidnap and murder faced by journalists now.

“But I think something happened to the news business after the end of the Cold War,” he added.

“Audiences declined dramatically and to respond, the editors tried to be entertaining — more royal stories, more nonsense stories, an increasing emphasis on celebrity.

“I’m quite interested to hear what’s going on in Somalia and Yemen, but I can’t read anything because they don’t have any reporters there.

“The old values still apply — getting the news right, not believing what anyone tells you and bearing witness.”

Martin said that it concerned him that so many people, particularly the young, seemed more interested in the latest happenings of the Kardashians and on what was on their electronic devices than in the wider world around them.

He urged them to “look up”, telling them that “there is much more to be seen than on your handheld little screens and dead-end messaging machines”.