The Kind of Journalist I Might Have Been

Some might say I should start the day by blogging about the election. That blog post is coming, but right now my exhaustion is showing in the wear and tear on my spirit, and I prefer to turn my attention to non-election considerations. My father just sent me this little tid bit from the New York Times ::

Appreciations: The Far Eastern Economic Review
November 3, 2004 – By HELENE COOPER

For someone who grew up dreaming about swashbuckling journalists reporting from far-flung places, there was no greater model than The Far Eastern Economic Review, a weekly founded in Shanghai in 1946 and put out by a raffish staff of adventurers.

To me, the review’s reporters embodied what journalism was about. There was Bertil Lintner, the Swedish buccaneer who spent a year walking along the Chinese-Burma border during the 1980’s with his wife. Their baby was born along the way, and Mr. Lintner continued to file mammoth articles that gave voice to a culture nobody would pay anyone to cover. There was John MacBeth, the New Zealander who kept reporting from East Timor to Jakarta even after his leg was amputated, battling the Indonesian strongman Suharto. There was Nayan Chanda, the Bengali from Calcutta, among the last reporters left in Saigon when North Vietnamese tanks invaded the city. Mr. Chanda was filing his article as Communist tanks were crashing through the city gates. He kept working until two Communists walked up to him and literally pulled the plug of the telex machine….

— snip snip —

….Four years ago, on my way home from Beijing, I met the FEER reporter Murray Hiebert on the plane. He was fresh out of a Kuala Lumpur prison, where he had just spent a month for reporting about a Malaysian judge’s wife who had sued an international school for kicking her son off the debate team. I was star-struck; here was one of my heroes in the flesh, still battle-scarred. Murray was bashful. “I think most journalists should go to jail for a month,” he said later. “You have no idea how much you respect press freedom after that.”

It’s that last anecdote that catches my attention. I am a proud graduate of the International School of Kuala Lumpur — the international school mentioned at the end of that segment. And while I was not a member of the Debate team, I was a member of the Forensics team — in Impromptu Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Oral Interpretation. I traveled with the Debate team to tournaments and memories of the amazing duo Donny & Duncan still make me laugh. And I do recall the conflagration mentioned above — it’s kind of crazy to run across (in the New York Times Op-Ed pages, no less!) an episode from your high school on the other side of the globe.


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