Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

My professional crushes

with 5 comments

One e-mail got me on cloud nine most of last night. It came from Simon Reeve, dashing English man in his mid-30s, producer extraordinaire of several astounding BBC documentaries and the first man to write a book about Osama Bin Laden, long before 9-11. I wrote to Simon last week (we’re on first-name basis it seems in his e-mail) to express my appreciation of his work. We journos get enough crap for the stuff we do wrong, I figure deserved compliments should be given, too. And Simon responded within a week, faster than it often takes me to write to my own family. Pretty cool if you ask me.

This got me thinking about the various people whose work has affected me throughout the years. I call them my professional crushes because I know if I were to meet them, I would probably stammer, blush and lose all coherent thought. Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive list in no particular order.

Stephane Paoli, former host of the morning news on France Inter: a perfect radio voice, awesome interviewing skills and sharp insight. I start on a controversial one, since Mr. Paoli has been at the center of some controversies and is not very well liked from a segment of the French journalist community, it seems. But I can only speak of him from a listener’s standpoint, as he accompanied my morning toast for years. One day in 2004, I showed up to work at the theater where I was an usher, only to find out Mr. Paoli was animating the debate we were hosting that day. I got someone to cover for me, ran home, wrote a cover letter, printed a resume and handed it all to him at the end of the evening. He actually passed it on to HR, and I heard back. I was shaking the entire time, but man, was I happy I got the guts to do it.

Nick Kristof: If you know me a little, you know I want to work in Africa. Mr. Kristof does great work there; it’s quality reporting, and he doesn’t hide under the excuse of objectivity to allow complaisance.

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich: If you haven’t heard Radiolab, you haven’t heard radio. If I move to New York, I am so doing a sit-in in front of Mr. Abumrad’s office.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee: who hasn’t had that professional crush? I finally met them this fall at the SPJ national convention. More precisely, I stood in front of a table, stammering and blushing while they signed a book for me. It’s the one thing I would save if my house caught on fire (not true, I’d grab my camera bag first).

David Attenborough, the whole Planet Earth team and the BBC in general: As I’ve said before, when a company is willing to spend three years on getting a few minutes of footage of a snow leopard, you know you have to work for them. I was transfixed when I first saw this show, by the images and by the sound of Sir Attenborough’s voice.

Travis Fox: I am usually a Times reader, but when it comes to multimedia reporting, the WashPo is light years ahead. Much credit for that goes to Travis Fox. When the Times’ videos are playing on my screen, I multi-task. With Mr. Fox, I wouldn’t dare.

Marianne and Daniel Pearl: Ok, I really should read more about them because I’m mostly going on the movie. But what I’ve seen of their philosophy of journalism fascinates me. And when Mrs. Pearl talks about truth as a religion, she articulates something that has been brewing (mostly macerating) in my head for years.

Kevin Sites: Who said Web portals can’t do journalism? And more importantly, can I have your job Mr. Sites?

And then there was Simon Reeve… I discovered his work two weeks ago when I was surfing the Web to indulge my documentary addiction. I stumbled upon Equator, a 3-part series for the BBC where Simon circles the earth along the equator, exposing environmental threats, poverty, war, fascinating people and breath-taking landscapes. I developed an instant admiration for Simon and his work. The man is extremely personable on camera, and the concepts behind his documentaries are genius. “Places that Don’t Exist,” for instance, presents regions in the world that have government and (more or less) functioning state but are not recognized internationally. Think Taiwan, only the places he chose, you probably have never heard of. Brilliant.

Goodness, that’s a lot of men in there. Got a few women to suggest whose work I should check out? Who are your professional crushes?


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Tuesday, 4 December, 2007 at 05:07

5 Responses

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  1. Hi

    I wholeheartedly support your enthusiasm for Simon. Somehow there’s a lot you can tell about someone by their mannerisms and expressions. I felt instant admiration for the guy too. He is always just that amiable!

    There are so many memorable scenes from Equator but one comical one that easily pops out for me is in Columbia when Simon asks Kernel Quentero if there is a reward on his head and what he gets is a further discomfiting reply from Quentero. Any unintentional bits that struck you?

    It’s wonderful to see BBC gear-out a sequel to Equator soon now, that’s why I think it’s still streaming on their site. I doubt if he’s the producer of any of those series though.

    Hope he continues to receive heaps of aplomb and laurels.

    If you are interested in some screencaps, images, and his interviews, you can check this Yahoo group here where I am a member of course :)

    Take care


    Friday, 7 December, 2007 at 18:43

  2. Woodstein and Bradlee for sure. I was at the as well and I bought each of their books. Kristoff, Sites and Krulwich are pretty cool too. I’m not familiar with the others.

    I would also add Leonard Pitts, Fareed Zakaria and Dave Barry for my list.

    Greg Linch

    Monday, 28 January, 2008 at 04:16

  3. I tried to insert an link as HMTL, but it didn’t work:

    Greg Linch

    Monday, 28 January, 2008 at 04:17

  4. Nice, Greg. I didn’t go behind the table.

    PS: I see you’re back-reading my whole blog.


    Monday, 28 January, 2008 at 04:23

  5. Haha, I just started exploring your tag cloud.

    Greg Linch

    Monday, 28 January, 2008 at 04:32

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