The golden age of foreign correspondence

I’m reading Christina Lamb’s Small Wars Permitting these days, a thoughtful Christmas gift from a friend and colleague here who’s a Lamb fan herself. I’m enjoying the book, which mixes personal recollections with the stories she wrote at the time for the Financial Times. I’m only just starting, reading about her start as a 20-something aspiring correspondent in Pakistan/Afghanistan. I can relate (minus the war).

Here’s one paragraph that made me tick.

It’s every aspiring foreign correspodent’s dream when the foreign editor calls you in to his glass box and asks: ‘Where in the world would you like to go?’ In the late 1980s no other newspaper had as many overseas bureaux as the FT and on the foreign editor’s wall there was a huge map of the world dotted with coloured pins to represent them all. Red for staff, blue for super-stringers, and yellow for stringers. I was being promoted from yellow to blue, which meant I would get a fixed salary and my own office and secretary.

*sigh* I was born 20 years too late.

And here’s one of my favorites, an unofficial translation from François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim.

So what should I become? A curious one. It’s not a profession, it’s not yet a profession. Travel, write, translate. Learn to live everywhere. Start right now. The future belongs to professional curious ones. The French have too long stayed locked in behind their borders. You’ll always find some newspaper to pay for your escapades.

Of course, that was all before the News, the Chronicle and the Express-News. *sigh* I was born 50 years too late.

That said, I’m heading out of Cambodia and to southern Laos. Be back in two weeks to write all about it. There’s a newspaper to pay for my escapades.