Much like Liam Neeson, Foreign Editors have a particular set of skills.
They WILL find you, they WILL make you file.
From the Aussie Outback to the Patagonian fastness to the fleshpots of Bangkok, if you speak English, have mentioned that fact to a journalist and can write your name, sooner or later you’ll get a call and an urbane voice that makes diplomats sound vulgar will have persuaded you to file 1,200 words as an eye-witness to The Natural Disaster, The Coup or Mood On The Streets.
But this is a good thing. You’re now a Foreign Correspondent. More importanly, you’ve given your publication a ‘dateline.’
Little Vanya Was Picking Flowers When NATO Bombers Came For Her
By Lunchtime O’Booze, in Pristina.
In an age of cutbacks and social media re-purposing, nothing gives more preening rights to Foreign Desk than a dateline on the byline from the actual scene.
Foreign Editors or International editors as the more forward thinking outlets call them remain a useful breed to know on your ascent to the top. Fancy leaving the newsroom for a spot of travelling? No problem. May as while earn money while you’re on the go by leaving your details with Foreign Desk. It won’t be long before the rest of the foreign desks have your number – and soon you’ll be sipping your beach cocktail safe in the knowledge that should a Brit abroad drown or the banana republic balloon goes up, you’ll be earning coin on the back of it.
Out of all of the desk editors bar the Comment Editor, Foreign Editors are the nearest you’ll come to civilised conversation in a newsroom. This is largely due to their innate skill in handling some of the biggest beasts in journalism: The War Correspondent.
Anyone who has ever had to deal with a War Corr in full flow, knows that they have long since passed the 1,000 word stare, and what they are covering is Very Important.
Explaining why the 1,500 word screed on central african political change has been traduced to a wing on page 2 in favour of an upset on Big Brother (better pics, more raunchy) requires tact – and the ability to imitate a broken phone line.
Since an eyewitness splash on a market bomb massacre or tsunami filed within a squeak of the last edition deadline can rely solely on the ability of the Foreign Editor to get someone out of bed 12,000 miles away, they are the masters of diplomacy.
Given that many have returned from the front-line – even if that front line no more onerous than Sydney – they are great company. Reverseferret knows of one who writes romance fiction in their spare time after a Chechen RPG landed at their feet and failed to explode.
‘It helps with the stress,’ they said.
It generally goes without saying that most journalists crave a Foreign Corr job since at the very least you’ll escape the baleful glare of newsdesk and press release rewrites. However, many newsrooms have pulled in their horns and TV news, social media and agency copy has made a dimmer replacement.
But even if you cannot get a posting, getting on-side with the foreign desk will get you the best contacts in any country you visit, where to eat, where to club, where to flop.
In short, if Foreign Desks had pooled their resources, airbnb would be out of business tomorrow.
Categories: Survive Your Newsroom