Monitor writers celebrate ‘unique’ moments
From crawling on the carpet with Ronald Reagan to sipping tea with the Che Guevara of Afghanistan, former staffers recount stories as the Monitor transitions to new formats.
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In early 1970, I resigned as a reporter for UPI in Saigon but stayed on in South Vietnam to study Vietnamese. A month or so into my studies, the Monitor asked if I could fill in as a stringer to replace their Vietnam correspondent for six months or so.
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Within weeks, I was in Cambodia covering a new war and traveling down roads more dangerous than most that I’d seen in Vietnam.
In 1973, the Monitor’s editor, John Hughes, called me to ask if I’d like to be the Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent for the paper. A British colleague and I had just come under fire on a road northeast of Saigon. Still a bit shaken, I can only remember telling John, “I just got shot at.”
I asked John to let me sleep on it. As I recall, I accepted the job the next day.
CRICKET IN THE MIDST OF MAYHEM
In May 1981, the world’s media encamped in Belfast to cover the IRA hunger-strikers – Bobby Sands in particular. Sands was near the end of his long hunger strike, and on a particular weekend, there was no hard news development. I was working with the London correspondent David Willis. As a diversion from the general grimness of the atmosphere, I suggested David accompany me to a cricket match at Waringstown, near Belfast, that I was covering for my own paper, the Belfast Telegraph.
Willis, an ardent cricket fan, could not believe his good fortune and marvelled at the rural serenity of the very “English” cricket match, in a place like Northern Ireland where there was so much violence and danger. David filed a well-written and most evocative piece for the Monitor – about a cricket match and the “normality” of life amid the prevailing abnormality in Northern Ireland which, during that weekend, was approaching one of the worst periods of community division and danger in the history of the Troubles. Shortly afterward, Bobby Sands died – on the 66th day of his hunger strike.
Only a unique reporter like David would have filed such an unusual story, only a unique paper like the Monitor would have used it – which is why it was such a special publication with which to be associated.
– Alf McCreary
RUNNING INTO MANDELA ... AT THE PRISON
Some moments are frozen in time. Such was the case when I received a call from the Monitor’s foreign editor Jane Lampman on that June Sunday in 1990.
“Guess who is standing outside the Monitor in One Norway Street talking to the editor [Dick Cattani]?”
While I was wracking my brain, she interrupted my thoughts.
“Nelson Mandela,” she said.
I was astounded. I’d covered Mandela’s epic release from a prison warder’s house in the Cape winelands only a few months earlier and the seminal event was still uppermost in my consciousness. The country would change dramatically and the world would be profoundly moved.
By a strange twist of fate, I became the first journalist and member of the public to shake Mandela’s hand on the day of his release as I had wandered unchallenged into the prison grounds an hour before his release.