Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Journey In (and Out of) International Journalism -- Part III -- Getting a First Job


Hustling in Paris


This an adaptation of a talk I gave recently. Part I was about wanting to become an international journalist. Part II was about the studies and internships to get there. In early 1995, while collecting subsidized housing checks in Paris, and playing in-line hockey near the Bastille, it was time to make my studies pay. While my degree with the prestigious Sciences-Po school got me in the door for several interviews, as soon as I sat down in waiting areas, I could feel I was seriously out of place (see picture of me above). I can remember an interview with the PR team from Euro Disney which lasted less than one minute. The recruiter laughed out loud at the incongruity of me even being there. She suggested I become a hobo travel surf writer.




Turkish Delights


Lucky for me, my sister was living in Istanbul, Turkey, then, and got me an internship (which I've already written about briefly) with the then Istanbul office of the Turkish Daily News (now the http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/). There I mostly copy edited strangely written English business stories on even stranger computers. All I can remember really is the haze of cigarette smoking, old men typing away furiously, and regretting previous, more exciting parts of their careers, and the frequent interruption of boys coming around carrying tea trays. This taught me desk and cubicle life was not ideal. I wrote a few art features, and got tours of the city with Aysegul Sert, (then the daughter of the editor, and now a journalist in her own right).



The Importance of Networking


After I got back to Paris, and the business of becoming a self-sufficient adult, through constant networking of every conceivable network I had, and after months of writing mindless reviews of restaurants and museums for English-language publications, and a split byline (with my pictures above) for one freelance article for Canada's reputable Globe and Mail, I was finally given a decently-paid opportunity to be the interim English-language European affairs reporter at a newly created European desk at Radio France Internationale. This was under the direction of Valerie Laine, my first boss, and one of the best bosses I've had to this day.



The Grittiness of Paris


Living in the eastern part of Paris, I would often roller blade across town to the "Maison de la Radio" in the west, near the Eiffel Tower, and prepare a five-minute daily radio report with phone interviews on a hot-button European topic, with "Euroappeal" probably at its peak, full of promise resting on still solid economies with still existing social safety nets. I also contributed feature, Paris-based reporting directly for the English-service of RFI, making extra money, and getting a feel for different editors, and their different requirements, based on their own view of what a radio story should communicate and how. Back home, I would listen to my radio on the AM dial to catch my own voice, and try to improve through self-critique. But to me, Paris was not a foreign place, and before long, even as the interim tag turned into a permanent job, the wanderlust of returning to the tropics, and somewhere much more exotic, would soon kick in.

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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