My first job as a journalist was not due to my writing or reporting skills. The Peruvian Times editor wanted someone who could speak Spanish and not get lost in Lima streets while on assignment. My first month's wages were $200 -- and I was overpaid. Fortunately, living standards were heavily subsidized at that time. But the job was a chance to write full time and try to understand Peru. It took me a while to get my typing speed up and learn the mechanics of putting together a story.
I started working for the Post in 1984 with great trepidation because I thought I could not handle the responsibility. When I did my first couple of stories, I was scared out of my wits. Little by little, I gained confidence and did some interesting reporting during the García administration. The big breakthrough was the visit of former top boss, Katherine Graham in 1985. I set up her schedule and served as guide for a week. It was a chance to open her group's eyes to Peru. That duty won some credibility with the foreign news desk, and I had plenty of opportunity afterwards. I also had several pieces republished in the International Herald Tribune.
The correspondents were especially supportive: Jackson Diehl, Bradley Graham and Eugene Robinson.
"Peruvian General Says Insurgency Pacified, December 12, 1985
"Mutiny in Peru's jails casts pall on progress of Garcia's first year", July 28, 1986
"State of Emergency Is Imposed in Lima; Fresh Guerrilla Attacks Blamed." February 1986.
"Lima's Marxist Mayor Strengthens City's Finances." November 1986
"Peru Raids Reflect Frustration; Garcia Seeks Ways to End Insurgency", February 15, 1987
"Peru's President Plans Bank Nationalization," July 29, 1987
"Peru's President Issues Decree to Nationalize Banks," July 30, 1987
"Peruvian Rebel Offers Grim Prophecy; Shining Path Leader, in Rare Interview", August 19, 1988
"Peru Sets Austerity Measures; Price Rises," August 10, 1990
"Challenging Year for Peru's Risky Economic Gamble," February 22, 1987
This newspaper was one of my first strings. The publisher had a soft spot in his heart for Peru, which he visited several times, and asked me to do stories about good-works operations in Lima so that he could hit Canadian donors for support. That's how I ended up doing articles about several schools and orphanages. I also did feature-style news stories that allowed me a little more sway in my writing.
Paul Knox was a supportive editor in Toronto when I started and he eventually became the Latin American bureau chief for the Globe and Mail.
"El Nino soaks northern Peru," February, 1983
"Leader of Peruvian opposition sets sights on a higher target," March 14, 1983
"Union kitchens are perking; Lima's women are getting it together," September 20, 1984
"Peruvian prison riot: How reign of terror ended," September, 1980
"Peruvian children find hope in a ramshackle orphanage," March 26, 1986
"Peruvian town whispers in fear of '1,000 eyes'," March 1983
"His debt-strapped nation tottering, Peru's new leader flouts convention" September 7, 1985
"Peru's president has choice: reform or revolt," July 26, 1985
Unfortunately, I have the fewest clippings from Newsweek, having lost the folder in one of the moves back and forth between Peru and the States. Its International Edition was the news organization that was most receptive to story ideas and contributions to articles and had a large news hole for Latin America. I worked more than half my time on its stories. Since the material was always ground up and blended by a half dozen editors so I felt no pressure on me to write polished copy. I concentrated on providing good quotes and colors that could be spun into the story.
The correspondents that I worked with were great: Alma Guillermoprieto, Stryker McGuire and Joe Contreras, plus a few other correspondents that flew in for special assignment, like Peter Katel.
However, the news magazine style rarely gave a stringer the chance to write an article. I had few by-lined stories. I also wrote for the Japanese edition after Fujimori came to power.
"A Pestilence of Violence," June 30, 1986
"Peru's Booming Trade in 'Art Naif'," June 25, 1985
The Times was my earliest print string and it remained loyal to me even though I would go months without sending in stories. The most disagreeable facet was that The Times still took stories by having correspondents dictate stories over the phone when I was delivering stories to other publications via computer modem. Their long-distance phone bill must have been huge. The Times generously sent me an airmail edition of the newspaper everyday, which meant that there was always something in my post office box. I became well-versed on the Premier footbal league and Parliament.
I never had a chance to meet any Times editors or reporters. It was all over the phone.
"Coping with the legacy of 12 years of military government," July 21, 1980
"Garcia faces the military," July 3, 1986