Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Journey In (and out of ) International Journalism - Part II Studies, Soccer and Internships


This is based on a talk I recently gave to university students. Part I was about my globalist upbringing.



Soccer and Journalism in School


After graduating from high school, and having realized I would not be a top-flight professional soccer player (despite winning a Washington, D.C., city school championship as pictured above, bottom right), I decided to study journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada in Quebec, where I paid very low francophone country fees (since I am part French) and also played on the university's soccer team, earning school and 1991-1993 All-Canadian scholar athlete awards as a starter with a high GPA.



Discovering Radio


Even though I set out to be a general magazine or sports feature writer, one of my favorite classes turned out to be in radio journalism, which in a not surprising roundabout way, I now teach at the University Nevada, Reno.


Back to My French Roots


My next port of call was Sciences Po in Paris, France, a prestigious political school, where I also represented the school in soccer (in the above picture I'm in the middle of the bottom row). As I would find out while I traveled to different places, the beautiful game, and my ability to thread passes, would always give me a foothold and instant friends, along with many highs and lows.

At Sciences-Po, I also earned a master's equivalent in international relations, giving me better chops to analyze, think through, and dig into stories making global headlines or those always in the undercurrents. I remember, for example, a fascinating class about the Muslim Brotherhood.

International Internships


Along the way I had several news internships, including at the Istanbul offices of the then Turkish Daily News, where I worked days mostly on tedious copy editing and stayed nights at my sister's place, and the AFP Sports Desk in Paris, where I translated stories from French and Spanish to English, and back, and discovered I'd much rather play in my own games than report on others playing. I also had an interesting internship at the ABC bureau in Paris, where then correspondent Jim Bittermann (now on CNN) always fussed about his hair and stand-up shot locations, while being shunned by then anchor Peter Jennings , and trusted only for minor, fluff assignments.



Not Liking Network Television


While Bittermann was on a vampire-seeking trip in Romania, a terrorist bomb tore through a Paris metro, and instead of getting Bittermann back to his desk, ABC summoned their London correspondent (a much shorter and less amiable reporter) to cover the story in the French capital. When Bittermann called a few days later, and I picked up, he asked: "Is So and So still hiding under my desk?" I also had my first run-in with a "bureau secretary" who complained that I was not answering the phone enthusiastically enough, and had me practice, before she gave up on me and started ignoring me. It was my first taste of misplaced priorities, lack of trust and office politics amid the mayhem of covering the news. When he finally got back, Bittermann gave me some money out of his own pocket for helping him do extra work on a story about the Tour de France.

If you enjoyed this posting, other chapters of this series on my journey in and out of international reporting are the following:

Chapter 1 -- Wanting to Become an International Journalist

Chapter 2 -- Studies, Soccer and Internships

Chapter 3 -- Getting a First Job (with RFI in Paris)

Chapter 4 -- Getting to Indonesia

Chapter 5 -- Surviving a Revolution

Chapter 6 -- Fixers and Fixing

Chapter 7 -- Getting the Dream Job

Chapter 8 -- African Stories

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