- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

Writing for professionals
Many years ago, when I was starting out in the news business, a close friend of mine had just landed his first journalism job, with a small-town newspaper where he was the only reporter and photographer.
He told me his publisher insisted that whenever he covered a town council session or Kiwanis meeting or flower show he work into his story and photo caption the names of as many of the participants as possible.
The logic was that each of those people would be sure to buy a copy of the paper and maybe one or two extras for his friends and family.
It made a funny story at the time, but there was an underlying lesson that has stayed with me all these years: People love to see their names in the newspaper, and they love to read about events that they attended or were somehow involved in.
At The Washington Times, we take an admittedly elitist approach to the foreign section by setting out to build an audience among the capital's foreign policy professionals: members of Congress, State and Defense department workers, embassy employees, think tank staff and university faculties. We want others to read our pages as well, of course, but hope they will be attracted by the opportunity to read what the professionals are reading.
Every day, in Washington, there are any number of seminars, forums and news conferences attended and addressed by those same policy professionals. I suspect that, just like the Kiwanis in the small town where my friend started out, these people will pick up the paper if they think it has a story about an event they spoke at or attended.
The problem is finding staff members to cover these events. Our normal complement of three foreign desk reporters in Washington is generally tied up with the daily State Department briefing and the top breaking news of the day. That's where interns come in.

The intern season
It is that time of year when summer interns are arriving at offices all over Washington, and our annual crop started work at The Times on Monday.
The foreign desk has more than usual, with two already in place and one more starting tomorrow.
This gives us the ability to get reporters out to a lot of the conferences and seminars we would not normally be able to cover, as well as giving the interns a way to start meeting the people who make policy in Washington.
It also enables us to carry interviews with more of the international dignitaries who pass through this city, and that is exactly how our two interns were kept busy last week. They had three such articles between them in yesterday's paper.
The first was by Winter Casey, who interviewed the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping, Jean Marie Guehenno, about the growing importance attached by the United States to peacekeeping in a post-September 11 world.
The story inevitably led her into the arcane issue of U.S. dues to the world body, an area where even our most experienced reporters get confused.
U.N. bureau chief Betsy Pisik went over the story to make sure she had that straight, but otherwise the story appeared pretty much as Miss Casey wrote it.
The other two interviews were conducted by Andy Olsen on his first week on the job. Mr. Olsen is fluent in Spanish and has been studying at a university in Costa Rica, so he was the obvious person to send when our sister publication Tiempos del Mundo arranged an editorial board session with Costa Rica's new president, Abel Pacheco.
The president broke a bit of news in our pages by telling us he has been talking to President Bush about opening a police school in Costa Rica that would train officers from throughout the hemisphere to handle "modern threats."
Mr. Olsen's other interview was with Mwai Kibaki, leader of the official opposition in Kenya's parliament and a leading candidate in presidential elections expected by the end of the year. With President Daniel arap Moi barred by his own constitution from running again, Mr. Kibaki is given a fair chance of winning.
That makes one sitting president and one potential president for Mr. Olsen. Not bad for his first week on the job.

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide