The poet W.H. Auden went to Spain in 1937 as an ambulance driver during the civil war and wrote that the star reporters covering the siege of Madrid behaved like famous actresses at a first night.

We can get a flavour of what Auden meant by watching BBC news bulletins which daily treat us to the spectacle of one BBC journalist interviewing another BBC journalist on a rooftop far from the war.

These ludicrous double acts, often starring Lyse Doucet or Jeremy Bowen of the grizzled beard, take up three minutes of a 30-minute bulletin which purports to present all the vital news of the day, not only the Middle East crisis but important domestic events.

It’s a waste of time better used to convey the views of the Palestinians and Israelis who are living and dying this story. Where are the interviews with the Hamas terrorists or the Israeli Special Forces?

East Anglian Daily Times: Michael says TV coverage should include what is actually happening in a war zone rather than journalists just talking to each otherMichael says TV coverage should include what is actually happening in a war zone rather than journalists just talking to each other

I have yet to hear them on the BBC, though I have read them in print. No medium has the narrative power of television.

Covering a war is relatively simple because it is happening right in front of the lens. But Rooftop Reporting has now completely taken over. Highly-paid BBC journalists are reluctant to leave the satellite point.

East Anglian Daily Times: Lyse Doucet Lyse Doucet

It would not do for them to miss an opportunity for their sun-tanned faces and tieless torsos to appear as often as possible.

This may thrill their mothers and spouses but it is not what war reporting is about.

When I covered conflicts for BBC TV News, presenters presented and reporters went out with a camera crew.

They filmed the footage that was then edited into a tight package for transmission to London. The reporter was heard but often not seen.

The images of war were rightly judged as more important than another chance to see a reporter standing in front of dead tank or a building destroyed days before.

Now, the reporter’s image dominates the screen, sometimes seen at the beginning, middle and end of a two-minute report. And then the rooftop presenter comes to the reporter on another rooftop for what was known at ITN during Sir Trevor MacDonald’s time as the, “Well, Trevor” interview.

East Anglian Daily Times: Well, TrevorWell, Trevor

Again, without pictures of what is actually going on?

The huge technical advances that make live coverage not just possible but cheap have robbed television news of some of its sharpness and integrity.

If the cameras can hosepipe Gaza night and day, there are endless possibilities for what the Americans call “Grand-standing” but every British child knows as “showing off “.

We see a succession of male reporters with studied expressions of concern, shirts not just open at the neck but artfully showing tufts of chest hair, their manly chins embellished by sweat and stubble. There is no excuse for it.

As most reporters do not have RADA on their CV, few are convincing when emoting for our greater understanding of Israel and Gaza’s agonies.

Reporting from the Green Line, dividing Muslim and Christian Beirut, during the Lebanese Civil War 1974-84, I wore a lightweight suit and a tie.

When a colleague suggested that this might be too formal with fighting going on all around, I told him it was protection.

My camera crew wore T-shirts saying “British Press” in Arabic but I calculated that my wearing of a tie might cause any passing gunman to hesitate before taking aim.

Dressed like that, I certainly wasn’t a combatant. It may have been stupid but it worked.

Now, reporters wear helmets and body armour as the BBC attempts to mitigate its responsibilities for the safety of its staff.

But a flak jacket did not prevent Martin Bell being wounded by shrapnel in Bosnia.

I was beaten up in Belfast but was never wounded in Israel, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, El Salvador, Zaire or Rhodesia.

I didn’t wear my flak jacket in Beirut but I did put it over my head when I went to sleep, in case the windows of the Ambassador Hotel were blown in.

Though you might not guess it, the reporters live in hotels. Israel has many 5-star establishments. They all have laundry services and hot water. There is no excuse for sweat-strained shirts and stubble chins on camera, unless for macho effect. It is many years since the battery-operated shaver was invented.

Sky Television’s Mark Austin never appears with five days of stubble. But then Mark, a former colleague and old friend who had family connections to Metfield in the Waveney Valley, is old school and wins awards.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark AustinMark Austin

Alan Whicker’s producer Ellis Whiddup once asked him, as they were boarding the cage to go down a coal mine, why he insisted on wearing his famous suit?

“Because Alan Whicker wears a suit”, he said. “And I have 18 of them, identical”.

Almost all of the coverage from Gaza and southern Israel is the work of local cameraman or those working for the Israel Defence Force, the IDF.

Then the imported reporter does his piece to camera, with a palm tree in the background as set-dressing.

The BBC is throwing away credibility by allowing reporters to be dressed more like combatants than reporters. It shows disrespect for the viewer. Surgeons wear scrubs. Airline captains wear shirts with four stripes on their epaulettes. TV reporters should dress for the job. That means not dressing in a way that distracts the viewer from what they are saying. A little formality can never be out of place.

“Battlefield tourists” is the trade term of contempt for reporters who become infatuated with the excitement of war and think that the most important thing about it is their own compelling presence.

They are usually the last to get off their rooftops. We are not interested in the opinion on the rooftop. We want to hear from the front line, what the people involved are feeling and thinking.

That’s what real reporters want too. The best ones see in the casualties of war the reflections of their own children and loved ones. It’s dangerous but then war reporting always has been.

One Reuters journalist has already been killed in this conflict by Israeli bombing in southern Lebanon. Reporters are there to observe and report as accurately as possible. They are not there to act out a balcony scene in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, far from the real war two hours to the south.