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Xtreme journalists: getting tired of the same old newsroom routine? Maybe some of these people can help. Quill recently conducted Q&A's with 10 "extreme" media members. The goal was to find 10 people with interesting, and sometimes dangerous, jobs that break the mold of the traditional journalist.


Age: 41

Title: National correspondent, Chicago Tribune

When you think of extreme journalists, war correspondents usually come to mind. Mike Dorning (far right) of the Chicago Tribune has seen death up close, the impacts of war and was even abducted by a band of armed men. Yet he continues to take assignments in Iraq so others can understand the true face of war.

In the photo, Dorning joins U.S. soldiers at an observation post above the main road through Ramadi, keeping watch over a supply route.


Q: You have done five rotations in Iraq. What were the conditions like over there?

A: Those rotations, each lasting about a month and a half, have been spread over nearly two years, and conditions have changed quite a bit over time.

When I was last in Iraq, in February and March, security was still a big problem. An Italian journalist was kidnapped while reporting on a university campus in Baghdad. The airport road was dangerous day and night. Our bureau in Baghdad is located inside a guarded, fortified compound, and our correspondents' movements outside were carefully planned, mostly to locations where we already knew people. I spent most of this past assignment embedded with American troops in various locations around the country. One soldier I profiled was shot in the face by a sniper two days after I finished spending time with him.

That said, life in Iraq is net all danger and doom. I met two soldiers from the Indiana National Guard who fell in love and got engaged in Iraq on Valentine's Day. An Iraqi who is a good friend just had a baby daughter. And several Iraqis I know said they took heart from the relative calm during the national elections.

Q: Having been in Iraq and seen the coverage once you got home, do you think the media is doing a fair job of telling the complete story? What misconceptions do you think most have about Iraq and the war on terror?

A: For the first year and a half, I thought the American press was not sufficiently communicating the strength of the insurgency and the broad impact that it had on the country and on the work of American forces. Because the daily coverage tended to focus on attacks that killed Americans or spectacular attacks on other targets, I think the public initially did not appreciate that there were many attacks every day all over the country and the menace that created. But by last summer, I think most Americans had a general sense of how widespread the insurgency was.

Not surprisingly, most Americans that I meet at home still fail to appreciate the complexity of the situation in Iraq--that there is a real mix of opinion and interests among Iraqis, among different ethnic groups, among people with different views of religion's role in society, among people who just plain react to life's challenges in different ways. Those differences have been amply covered but I think there is always a tendency for people to over-generalize about a foreign land.

I do think the media is doing a fair job of telling the story in Iraq--given the very substantial limitations placed on reporters by the difficult security situations.

Q: While reporting from Haiti several years back, you were put into a situation where you had to dodge bullets.

A: I was covering a march by Aristide supporters a week or so after the arrival of U.S. forces in Haiti. The march passed by a building occupied by a paramilitary group that had been enforcers for the military dictatorship. The militia members began firing into the crowd. The marchers threw rocks back at the militia members. The melee went on for some time. I and other reporters continued to follow the skirmish by moving along porches along the side of the road and taking cover where we could.

Ultimately, the militia members charged down the road, executing a number of demonstrators as they overtook them. One of the demonstrators that they shot was taking cover on a porch a few yards from me. A USA Today reporter tried to shield the demonstrator--a young man probably in his late teens--as the militia members approached the porch. But the militiamen pulled the reporter away and shot the demonstrator in the head with a pistol. Then one of the soldiers picked up a rock and slammed it into the young man's head.

Q: Was that your scariest moment in journalism? If hot, what was?

A: During my first day in Iraq in May 2003--just after the U.S. invasion--I was driving from Jordan to Baghdad when a band of men armed with AK-47s forced our vehicle of the road, assaulted my driver, tossed him out of the vehicle and then took me and the vehicle off into the desert. I tried to get out of the vehicle and let them take everything, but they would not let me out. I spoke no Arabic and they spoke no English. So I was left wondering whether I was being robbed or kidnapped like Danny Pearl. I realized there was nothing I could do but be quiet, remain calm and pray.

Eventually, we stopped. It turned out I was being robbed ...

Since then, I've been mortared, fired on, had a car bomb blow up nearby. But in each case, I was with a translator, a driver or soldiers I knew. There's something especially scary about being alone, unable to communicate and helpless to resist.

Q: Why do you put your life on the line? Do you enjoy the rush?

A: I don't seek to risk my life or risk injury to myself for its own sake. But I understand that life is full of risks, and that risks can be worth taking. It's important for Americans to understand the true face of war, particularly when so many people no longer have a firsthand connection with service in the armed forces. And, on a personal level, covering war and societies in conflict gives you a deeper appreciation of human nature--of courage and sacrifice, of brutality and betrayal, of human resilience and the often-surprising strength of everyday families swept up in extraordinary circumstances.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: Back in 1993, when I wrote a magazine story about a cousin and my brother, who both died from AIDS within a year of each other. It was a difficult story to write, and my family was understandably nervous about publicly sharing such a wrenching experience. But I think I succeeded in capturing the spirit that we all loved in my brother without avoiding his flaws and in shedding a bit of light on how a national tragedy rippled through one family. My parents liked the story so much they sent it out to friends and relatives.


Age: 29

Title: Freelance photographer

Former newspaper photographer Corey Rich doesn't just take pictures of people climbing mountains, surfing and snow skiing--he takes part in the activities. But he doesn't consider them extreme. However, the time he was run over by a prize-fighting bull in Panama--that's a different story.


Q: What are some of the most dangerous places you have climbed, skied, etc.? What are some of the most exciting?

A: It's still right in my back yard. It's still Yosemite. Shooting on El Capitan is always an eye opener. It's just so exposed. Everything counts. It's just such a compelling location and backdrop. Then you combine that with an athlete performing at the highest level, and it becomes an amazing place for storytelling. I also love the fact that 3,000 feet away there are families sitting down for a picnic, looking through binoculars and drinking beer. I still love those extremes. Telling a compelling story doesn't always mean going to Nepal or Peru.

Q: What's a bigger thrill, the sport itself or photographing the sport?

A: I'd have to say that they're probably equal. The sports that I'm closest to--climbing, skiing, surfing--they are so rewarding. I get an incredible physical satisfaction from them. When I capture a real compelling moment, that's mentally rewarding. They're equal in my mind. I think it almost needs to be that way. If it gets out of balance, I think it can become an issue.

Q: You once hopped freight trains in the American West. Why did you do this, and how far did you travel?

A: It was about a month-long trip. A year earlier, I had bumped into this guy named Kevin Swift in a canyon at the Red Rocks of Las Vegas. He'd just dropped out of school to climb, didn't have a car and didn't have a lot of money. He hopped trains from Wyoming to get to climbing areas. We talked about doing a story, spent a week climbing and going to hot springs. A year later I called him out of the blue. He quit his job at a flower shop. A day later we met in Salt Lake City. We ended up going to Las Vegas, then to Los Angeles, where we hitchhiked back to Joshua Tree National Monument and eventually ended up in Tucson to climb at Mt. Lemmon. When we couldn't hop a train, we hitchhiked or walked. It was about three weeks of traveling and one week of climbing. It was pretty painful. Almost 10 years later though, Kevin and I are still close friends.

It was such a neat story. We didn't pitch it to anyone. We just went and did it. When we sent it to Climbing Magazine; they were blown away. They'd never seen anything like it.

Q: What was the most interesting country you have visited while on assignment?

A: Definitely Morocco. I spent a while in the Sahara Desert. It's about as wild a place as it gets. There's nobody around for hundreds of miles. There were 100 mile-an-hour winds, sand storms. It's what I imagine being on the moon would be like.

On the flipside, I love Sierra Nevada. We have incredible light, amazing mountains. When I come back from being abroad, it's a lesson in appreciation.

Q: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to go into extreme journalism?

A: As soon as I started climbing as a teenager, I began documenting my adventures. When I was looking for a college internship with a paper, I picked the Modesto Bee because it was closest to Yosemite. I used to work the whole week, drive to Yosemite Friday night, wake up early Monday morning, hop in the Merced River to wash up and drive to work.

After two years of saving money while working at the Bee, I wanted to see if I could make this work. I wanted to apply what I had learned covering the Fourth of July parade to climbing. I took 100 rolls of slide film, outfitted a Civic hatchback with a bed and set out through the Southwest. When I got back, I edited my film down to 40 images and sent it out. I figured if it didn't work, I would just go back to newspapers.

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in adventure photography?

A: Working at a paper is a great way to get that experience. Learning how to tell a story is vital.

There are a few things. First, you have to be passionate about an activity. In a sense you have to be an expert in a specific sport. You don't have to be the best, but you have to know what you love. If you wanted to cover chess, you'd probably have to be pretty good at chess to tell compelling stories. It's the same with adventure sports. You have to go out and do it. Beyond that, you need a little raw talent. You have to work hard, and you have to be a good person. In the end, if you aren't a good person, no one is going to want to work with you.

In the world of journalism--in anything creative--there's no substitute for experience. You can spend all your time with your head in books trying to learn about it, but there's a difference in thinking about it and doing it.

Q: Naine some of the publications you have shot pictures for?

A: Outside, National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated

Q: Do you have plans to marry and settle down with a family, or would that crimp your career?

A: I definitely have plans to settle and have kids. It's going to change the way I operate. Right now, my life is my work. My work is my life. I'd have to evolve, and that's something I'd be willing to do. I'd have to commit to being a father. I don't want to use the phrase "budgeting time," but I'd definitely have to think about what's important.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: It's definitely this photo of this guy, Tom Bulowd, getting a shot in the butt. We were in Costa Rica on a surf trip and the local cantina turned out to be the local clinic. It's not a Pulitzer Prize winning photo. It didn't change the world, but that's really the essence of what I do. I'm on this trip capturing lives, events as they unfold. This photo is a great example of how I combine storytelling with adventure.

Q: Have you ever been seriously injured while shooting?

A: I knock on wood. I take risks, but they're very calculated.

It can be surprising though. I was on a surf trip in Panama shooting for Patagonia. We're walking down a dirt road. I'm in flip-flops and surf trunks with my camera bag. It's a beautiful sunset. I'm with some good friends laughing. Over the horizon comes this huge bull with a cowboy right behind it whipping it with a bullwhip. I started fiddling with my camera gear. I look up, my friends are diving off the road. There was this thousand-pound bull with three-foot horns rive feet away from me. There was just enough time to realize, "Wow, I could die right now," and turn my body to the side.

I ended up getting hit right between the horns, flying 15 feet away. When I opened my eyes, I couldn't breath, I was bleeding, and the bull was still coming toward me. I curled into a fetal position and got kicked again. The cowboy's horse jumped over me. When I got up my flip-flops were still in the place where I had been standing. My camera was 25 feet away. Later on, we learned that it was the National Prize Fighting bull.

Q: To the average American, climbing mountains and glaciers might seem like a fringe activity. Even crazy. What do you consider crazy?

A: (Recently) I was shooting these BMX bikers for Sports Illustrated in Reno. I'm watching these guys in this concrete pool and skate park. They're doing back flips without helmets on. To me that's crazy. I don't understand how they do it. I'd end up in the E.R. with a concussion on my first go. It's just these kids though, hanging out after school. It's totally normal to them. To me it's crazy. They'd probably think climbing is nuts. ... It comes down to understanding the details of sport. Otherwise, it's just hard to understand.

Q&A conducted by Fitz Cahall


a.k.a, spiky EM

Age: 29

Title: staff reporter, Boston Globe

Emily Sweeney's job as a staff reporter at the Boston Globe is pretty cut and dried. She covers politics, education, real estate and many of the other beats most reporters cover. But this SPJ member does it with her own flair and personal style--and that means with tattoos, piercings and sometimes spikes.


Q: How long have you been an SPJ member:

A: I joined SPJ in 1999. Right now, I'm serving as interim president of the New England Pro SPJ chapter.

Q: Where did you get your journalism training?

A: Northeastern University. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1998.

Q: Your job duties aren't exactly extreme, but your lifestyle is. How do you balance the two?

A: I've never found my life outside of work to clash with my role as a journalist. Whenever I participate in performance art or act in films, I prefer using my nickname--Spikey Em. But I'm always a journalist, always looking for stuff to write about.

I've found so many sources and story ideas from being out and about, and being involved in the local club scene/independent film scene/music scene, I've met some amazing people at shows, clubs and parties. Many of them turned out to be great tipsters and sources for story ideas.

Q: How do you dress at work? Have you ever caught flack from co-workers or sources because of your attire?

A: I dress differently every day. Sometimes I wear collared shirts and ties, and I love wearing bow ties and scally caps too. Or I'll wear trousers with all kinds of zippers and straps. Other days I'll bust out my pinstriped pants. Right now my favorite article of clothing is a zip-up hooded sweatshirt that says "BOSTON" across the front.

I've never found my style to be a problem on the job. Honestly, it's only helped me. Sometimes my spiky hairdo and spiked belt is a good icebreaker for conversations. In some weird way, I think it puts people at ease. And if anyone ever wonders about my journalistic abilities, I always prove myself by writing an accurate story.

I've always dressed a bit differently from other people. I did try to tone it down in my first year on the job at a small weekly paper. But I do a better job when I feel comfortable. I did very well at each weekly newspaper I worked for, and as a result, my bosses didn't care how I dressed.

At the Globe, the way I dress has never been an issue. One time a colleague suggested I try wearing traditional office attire more often, because he felt my freakiness might impede me from getting a promotion. But the way I see it, I've been able to interview so many kids, politicians, all kinds of people --without ever having a problem.

I think newsrooms should reflect the population at large. If someone judges me by my appearance, sure, they might think I'm a hoodlum. If anything, I hope the way I dress makes them think twice before stereotyping other people.

Q: How many tattoos and piercings do you have?

A: Six tattoos and four piercings. Personally, I'm not a big fan of piercing. I had my tongue pierced for a while, but I eventually took it out.

Q: What do each of your tattoos represent represent?

A: I have Dot Rat tattooed on my back. It's a slang term for someone who grew up in Dorchester, a working-class neighborhood in Boston. I still live there.

I have a skeleton key on my right arm. I love skeleton keys, the way they look, and knowing that they were used to open something long ago. The shield surrounding the key is similar to a tattoo my brother has, and the letters "LL" stand for my fiancee, Lauralee Summer. She's a writer too--Simon & Schuster recently published her memoir about growing up homeless, it's titled Learning Joy From Dogs Without Collars.

On my left arm is the number 22. That stands for my address, 22 Newport Street in Dorchester, where I've lived for the past seven years.

I have a tribal design on my lower back. And a Dropkick Murphys symbol on my left arm.

Then I have Hobbes on my hip-the tiger from the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. It was my first tattoo; I got that when I was 16.

Q: How would you describe your lifestyle to the middle-aged white men that dominate mainstream journalism?

A: I don't really know how my colleagues spend their time outside of work, so I can't really make a fair comparison. I like to go out and do things--I enjoy checking out concerts, nightclubs, parties, art events, that kind of thing. So I get to meet lots of people--magicians, actors, writers, cops, Olympians ... all kinds of people. I met a vampire once, but that's a whole other story.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: There's so many of them. Back in 1999, I wrote a story about a group of homeless veterans who would hang out and drink in the woods. They agreed to be interviewed about their situation, and one of the guys wrote his own first-person piece to accompany my story. Then the following year, I did a series of stories on financial mismanagement at a public school.

Most recently, my colleagues Steve Maas, Bill Polo and I did several stories about the people who live at the Fernald School, the country's oldest institution for the mentally retarded. The state is trying to close it down permanently. The people at Fernald can't see, speak, hear or walk. It was humbling, having the opportunity to visit these folks, interview their families, and tell their stories.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: "Evil Is Everywhere." That became my slogan while I was working for that chain of small weeklies. During one staff meeting, I was explaining about some investigative reporting I was trying to do, and I said I wanted to investigate every public agency I could, because evil could be lurking anywhere--and everyone laughed. When I left that job a couple years later, the editor gave me a T-shirt emblazoned with "Evil Is Everywhere." I've used that saying as my screensaver ever since.

Q: What advice can you give people who want to express themselves more and get out of the mainstream rut of suits, ties and city council meetings?

A: Just be yourself. If you're hard-working, accurate, motivated and passionate about journalism, the clothes become less important.


Age: 68

Title: Freelance writer, former reporter for New York Daily News

Michael Iachetta has made the ultimate sacrifice for journalism--literally. While on a white water rafting assignment in Alaska in 1982, Iachetta suffered a severe leg injury and later died on the surgeon's table. After regaining consciousness, doctors told him he would never walk again. In 2003, he proved them wrong and climbed the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.


Q: On June 21, 1982, you clinically died while rafting the rapids in Alaska. Can you take us through that story?

A: At approximately 1:30 in the afternoon, we were hit by an uprooted, 100-foot cottonwood tree while we were hurtling down Whiting River about 26 miles southeast of Juneau, Alaska.

Wilderness guides helped get me to shore, and they applied a tourniquet to my leg as I asked the five Ws and the "how" for what would be either my last letter to my family, my final adventure travel story or a diary that would enable me to write about the accident extensively later.

I never lost consciousness, knowing if I went under I might never wake up again. I was airlifted by seaplane to Bartlett Memorial Hospital in Juneau, underwent nearly nine hours of life-saving, leg-saving surgery when my heart stopped on the operating table. I died, in the clinical sense, and had to have my heart restarted.

In layman's terms, the tree bounced my left knee down to my ankle, and rebounded it up again, severing my arteries along the way, paralyzing my peroneal nerve (the leg's lifting mechanism), leaving a hole where the front of my leg used to be, destroying cartilage, ligaments, anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and more. I underwent several operations in Juneau from June 21 to July 3, then was shot full of morphine and airlifted back to New York City, arriving in time for fireworks on July 4.

Doctors said I would never walk again, never be out of braces and would always need crutches or a cane. I underwent outpatient physical therapy three times a week, and by Dec. 24, miracolo, was walking, never without pain, but walking nonetheless, albeit with a slight limp and braces.

My recovery mantra was: "Someday I am going to climb Machu Picchu and walk into Petra."

I took early retirement in 1993 to concentrate on my own writing while working on my ongoing recovery. I have been traveling ever since as a freelancer who has, indeed, climbed Machu Picchu and, most recently, walked into Petra, the ancient lost city in Jordan carved into a mountainside.

Q: At want point in your life did you know you wanted to brave rushing waters and climb mountains?

A: From as long as I can remember, I read the Hemingways and wanted to go to the faraways. I began writing for my junior high school newspaper. I came out of Little Italy in the Bronx and got drunk on the wine dark seas while studying the classics at Fordham Preparatory School. In high school, my closest friend wanted to be a newspaper writer for The New York Daily News. He died of Hodgkin's disease in our junior year at Fordham Prep. I sublimated my life to living his, running his distances on the track team, taking his same subjects, writing for the school paper (The Rampart) as he did, even dating the same girl, and ultimately winning the John Scanlan Memorial Award (given in his honor) as Fordham's outstanding scholar/athlete upon graduation in 1954 en route to winning a track scholarship to Fordham University.

Q: How did you get your start in writing?

A: As a freshman runner at Fordham, I trained with junior Tom Courtney, who became Olympic 800-meter champion that year. Courtney showed me world-class runners could shift into an extra gear that I simply didn't have.

But what really changed my life in college was seeing that no one knew what they were talking about in writing track for the college newspaper, The Fordham Ram. So I began covering track as a freshman sports reporter, graduated into becoming Ram co-sports editor, and, most importantly, became campus sports correspondent for 12 area newspapers. That meant filing under deadline pressure after, say, a Fordham basketball game for The New York Times, The Herald Tribune, The World Telegram, The Journal American, The New York Daily News, The New York Daily Mirror, The New York Post, The Long Island Press, The Long Island Star Journal, The Brooklyn Eagle, The Associated Press and United Press International.

Q: You once ran the re-creation of the original marathon. Why?

A: Because it was there, because running in Europe was a childhood dream (the "Flying Finn," Paavo Nurmi, was one of my role models as one of the greatest distance runners of all time), because we were planning a series of stories on the upcoming New York Marathon at The New York Daily News, and I suggested during a story conference: Why not let me run the recreation of the original marathon? So I trained for Greece by running through New York's five boroughs on extended training runs during long lunch hours. And I ran my first marathon, from Marathon to Athens, in 3 hours, 45 minutes, in Oct., 1981.

Q: What advice would you give to people interested in adventure journalism?

A: In the words of Winston Churchill, never, never, never give up--not on yourself, on your story, on your dream. My favorite case in point: Early on, I had an editor who told me I couldn't write and should find a career in something else. I was then doing some of the first profiles on the Bob Dylans, Barbra Streisands and Edward Albees, people she couldn't understand. So when I had an advance story on The Beatles and their first upcoming appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, I proposed a feature on them to her. She wrote me back: "No, maybe if we ignore them they will go away." I took the story and photos I had to our news desk, and they tan it on the front page in a copyrighted story with art.

Q: What is your biggest career regret?

A: That because of Alaska, I will never run again, or be athletic again. But, conversely, because of Alaska I write with a depth of pain, simpatico, understanding and experience that would never have been possible without that horrific hurt--and that may yet enable me to finish the novel I set out to write in my idealistic youth. I am working on it right now, in between travels.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: This one. And the next one. And being grateful for my next breath, because I never know what is coming into my life next as a globe-trotting journalist. But my first front-page story will always be special. I was a cub reporter working nights as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera House when tenor Leonard Warren died on stage. In my usher's uniform, I went backstage, got the details, interviewed then haughty Met impresario Rudolf Bing and dictated the story to The New York Daily News, beating The New York Times and Herald Tribune in the process, along with the wire services.


a.k.a. Sam

Age: 27

Title: Senior photography editor, America Online

SPJ member Sam Stewart has a penchant for world travel--as in around the world. In 2001 Stewart took part in an air race that took him from London to Sydney in just 56 days. And they did it in a 1954 "albatross". At right is one of Sam's photos of Easter Island: A Moai statue with Rano Raraku in background, the volcano where most of the statues were carved.


Q: Where did you get your journalism/photography training?

A: Outside of "on the job" training, I received both a Bachelor of the Arts in Journalism and a Master of Mass Communication degree from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Q: You went around the world in 56 days in a 1954 airplane. What was the best part of that experience? Tell me about some of the people you met. Who left the biggest impact on you?

A: The best single part of the experience was completing a global circumnavigation safely. Attempting such feats, whether by boat, plane, balloon, etc., always is a risky proposition, and we thankfully were able to succeed with everyone on our team unharmed. Along the whirlwind journey we had the good fortune of meeting Prince Philip in London, Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney, as well as seeing the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, Ayers Rock and Easter Island to name a few highlights. The biggest impact on me had to have been attributed to the remarkable crew I was part of--the select men who flew, navigated, repaired, planned and dreamed this incredible adventure up.

Q: Was this assigned by someone, or did you just do this on your own?

A: The opportunity for this project came to me during my graduate studies at ASU. Lyle Campbell, a local banker and businessman in the Phoenix area, had approached ASU and specifically the journalism school to nominate a student who the school felt could attempt documenting such a project. The assignment to document the trip came directly from Lyle Campbell, who also funded the majority of the experience with some limited corporate funding.

Q: You wrote a book about the experience. Was that decided before you took the trip, or did you decide to do it after the trip was over?

A: Though we always knew we would do some post-trip project, we didn't know at the beginning that it would become a bound hardback book. During the adventure, on a daily basis, I would transmit photographs and text accounts of the days' activities to a Web site where they were posted online every day. Transmitting daily was a major feat since we were in more than two dozen different countries during the entire route, meaning utilizing a vast array of power adapters, phone adapters, as well as satellite technology to keep connected. After returning from the adventure, we began to work on a book, which was completed some time after. Currently in its second printing, "The Adventure Continues: London to Sydney Air Race 2001" was published by Peanut Butter Press in Seattle and more info can be found at

Q: You recently completed an air race around New Zealand; do you have any other adventures on your horizon?

A: In early 2004, I documented the Around New Zealand Air Race in photographs and text accounts, again transmitting daily to a Web site for others to follow, still located at The next large aviation adventure is slotted for late 2006; I am part of a team that plans to global circumnavigate the earth from top to bottom utilizing the North and South Poles. We are currently in the process of obtaining all the clearances, flight planning, and fuel planning needed to complete the journey. Stay tuned!

Q: What exactly is air racing? How are teams judged?

A: Air racing is much like any other kind of racing in which entrants fly their aircraft from point to point on a defined path. Since different aircraft have different speeds, most races will "handicap" airplanes--setting a reference speed for your aircraft to fly against, which is determined usually by your manufacturer's specifics. In this way, slow and fast planes can race in a race together fairly, but in the end, are racing their reference speed--not each other--so the person that beats their reference speed the best, wins. Precision flying is another way to make the race fair, where entrants estimate how long it will take from point to point, and will speed up or slow down their speed to make the estimated time.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: That the news is ever-changing and exciting, and photography has given me the ability to travel and experience the world. I am humbled and lucky that every day I get to work with photography.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: I don't think there is any one single moment, but I do find pride in the recurring feeling that every photograph will live on and help tell a story. That every time the shutter snaps, it may help record a place in time and history, and may help to tell this persons story now and to his or her grandchildren and their children. I am also happy that the "Adventure Continues" book is the first ever--and the only first-person documentation--of the London to Sydney Air Race, which is a historic race flown in 1919, 1934, 1969 and again in 2001.

Q: What is your day-to-day routine like?

A: The majority of my time is spent editing news photographs from several wires and agencies that are presented online at AOL News.... I also am assigned from time to time to originate photographs for AOL News, including recently covering both 2004 political conventions, the 2005 Bush inauguration, as well as spending a week along the Arizona/Mexico border in April 2005 documenting the porous borders and the issues involved with illegal immigration.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: Maybe "Life's too short" and "the Adventure Continues!"


Age: Thirties "That's all you're getting"

Title: Freelance writer

Cleo Paskal has caught Dengue Fever, married a man from the Feroe Islands and was once referred to as the "Elephant Lady" after suffering an allergic reaction to the pachyderms at the London Zoo. Yet, she continues to travel the world, usually to unknown countries, in search of great stories.

Cleo's words to live by"

"When traveling, look for what we all have in common, not what makes us different."


Q: What professional organizations do you belong to?

A: ASJA, SATW, NATJA, TMAC, FIJET, QWF and once, a long time ago, the McGill University Juggling and Unicycling Club (OK, we weren't as professional as we would have liked). Yes, I am a sucker for clubs. I still can't believe they'll actually let me join.

Q: What are some of the major publications you have worked for?

A: Sunday Times (U.K.), The Economist, The Independent (UK), Conde Nast Traveller, Columbia Journalism Review, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, National Post, Wired, Maclean's, Spy (a long, long time ago), Islands, Times of India, Japan Times, BBC radio (as producer, writer and show host), Weekly World News.

Q: A lot of your work is in the U.K. But, some of the stuff mentions Canada. Where do you live?

A: I'm a Canuck, but I was based out of London for almost a decade (I also lived in NYC for a while). I am now back in Montreal, but I'm on the road around two-thirds of the year.

Q: Where did you get your journalism training?

A: On the job. Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, used to have a weekend afternoon radio show for teens, by teens. I started working for them when I was 13. They taught us how to edit tape (anyone remember tape?). And that was that.

Q: What is your day-to-day routine like?

A: Get up, check e-mails, answer critical ones, panic about impending deadlines, shower, have breakfast. Make calls, do research, answer noncritical e-mails, go through snail mail, late lunch. More futzing around. Dinner. Write. Write. Write. Bath. Sleep.

Or ... travel to far away places with strange sounding names.

Q: You caught Dengue Fever in Kiribati. How long were you sick? Have you have any other serious illnesses or injuries on the job?

A: It took me around four months of Rot doing much to start feeling normal. It sucked. It's very hard to say how bad it was because I was outside the conventional health care system. I got sick on a remote atoll (Butaritari, in the Republic of Kiribati) and was tended to by the local medicine woman. So no convenient charts, blood tests, etc.... But she had very good mat-side manner.

As for other illnesses, I've been hospitalized on most continents. (The illnesses were) mostly unpredictable, severe allergies. Once, the elephants at the London Zoo put me in emergency. During my convalescence, the ever-sympathetic doctors on staff took to calling me the Elephant Lady.

Q: You married a man from the Faroe Islands. We assume this is your husband and not just another adventure all in the name of journalism?

A: I met hubby at a conference for the world's smallest countries. He was a representative for the Faroe Islands, I was doing a BBC series on microstates. I imported him to Canada. He wasn't completely duty-free, but he was worth the premium.

Q: How many days a year are you away from home?

A: About two-thirds of the year. I haven't been in one place for more than three months since graduating from university.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: I get to travel almost anywhere, meet almost anyone, then ask them almost anything.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: My dad reading one of my pieces and not finding anything to criticize.

Q: What do you dislike about your job?

A: Financial insecurity and having to sell myself one piece at a time.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: When traveling, look for what we all have in common, not what makes us different.

Q: What has been your most satisfying trip/experience?

A: Satisfying is an odd word. I'm not sure what it means in the context of travel. Somehow I associate it with feeling smug, which means anticipating information and then being proven right. I try not to anticipate because it makes it harder to just absorb without immediately judging. Sermon over.

That said, I'm human. I definitely did once feel smug and satisfied on the road--in a kind of geeky way. I have developed a complex theory about the structure of microstates, based on many visits to countries such as Monaco, Seychelles, Kiribati, San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Nauru, etc.... A section of it involves land distribution. It seems like all the countries have some way of ensuring that their citizens can afford a place to live in the country. I postulated that it was an almost inevitable byproduct of that sort of political structure.

So, I turn up in Tonga, one of the weirdest countries on the planet, but a microstate. And, sure enough, not only did they fall into all the other microstate "touchstones," they have a complex, but reasonably effective, land distribution system. Boy did I feel smug. Sorry, satisfied.


Age: 31

Title: Field editor, Indiana AgriNews

How dangerous can an agricultural beat be? It's all about county fairs and cute, cuddly farm animals, right?

Well, SPJ member Rebecca Wilson proves it can be plenty dangerous. She has been stung by bees, stared down by bulls, strolled through pig pens in her biosecurity suit, and was charged by a Ilama.

For Wilson, dodging livestock is all in a day's work.

photo by James Henry


Q: Much of your beat involves livestock, how much time do you spend in the field?

A: Some weeks, every day. Other weeks, not at all. I like to be in the field as much as possible, but there are other times where I need to work the phones as hard as possible. (One week), for instance, I knew my readers needed to know more about how different animal welfare auditing, assessment and certification programs were developing. This required in-depth interviews with animals scientists, meat packers, processors, producer groups, grocery stores, PETA, trade representatives and government sources. I barely had time to write, I was on the phone so much. By the time I finished, the story had morphed into a series.

Q: Where did you get your journalism training?

A: I began freelancing in high school for the now-defunct Bloomington Voice in Bloomington, Ind. I completed an editorial internship at Sassy Magazine in New York City before graduating high school, then worked my way through Earlham College in Indiana, where I majored in sociology and anthropology. I worked as a news writer in the Office of College Relations. My duties there included writing news releases, updating the community calendar and writing features for our alumni magazines.

Q: During one of your field assignment, you were charged by a Ilama and nearly trampled. What made the Ilama so mad, and why did he charge you?

A: Perhaps one would think a job in agricultural journalism would be a boring job, simply talking about the weather in the hog barn at the county fair, but I think it qualifies as extreme.

I've suited up with beekeepers to examine hives, getting stung multiple times in the process, I've donned my biosecurity suit and wondered through pig pens, a situation that requires great attentiveness because, as our governor Mitch Daniels proved on the campaign trail when he got bit on the ass, pigs are a force to be reckoned with. Bulls have toyed with charging me, but have never followed through.

But there was one day when I truly feared for my life. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was out in the field taking pictures and interviewing a farmer on intensive grazing management. He had an operation where multiple species, including sheep, cattle and poultry, grazed the same fields. The farmer wandered off ahead of me while I was taking pictures. Through the view finder I see the guard Ilama, Dolly, take off at a flat-out sprint toward me. This animal weighs at least 400 pounds and stands a good 6 feet tall. I lower the camera, but there is really no where to go.

You can't show fear, you can't get excited and scream at the farmer, who is paying no attention to me, and you definitely can't outrun it, so I just made a decision to hold my ground. The thing runs straight up in my face, but somehow manages to stop without running me over. It didn't spit on me, but I'm sure I got wet because she landed her nose right in my face, through my hair and over my body as she sized me up to determine if I was a threat to the animals under her charge.

The farmer finally came back to re-establish my personal space, and while I still think Ilamas are really cute, I'll never take one for granted again.

Q: Did you grow up on a farm or belong to Future Farmers of America when you were younger?

A: I grew up in the country, but I had no concept of FFA or what production agriculture was really about. I thought because I grew up in Indiana, I automatically understood those things. It was my writing ability and my love of Indiana that got me hired at Indiana AgriNews, and I'm eternally grateful for the experience because it has caused me to have a much greater appreciation for where my food comes from and the amazing complexity and diversity of agricultural issues.

Q: What is your day-to-day routine like?

A: The day is supposed to run from 8:30 to 5, but I am rarely that easy to pin down. My beat involves all aspects of the livestock industry, from artificial insemination to international trade, environmental and land-use issues related to farming and specialty crops, including mint, tobacco, hot peppers, honey and watermelons. We visit producers all around the state, so it's not unusual for me to be on the road early and getting home late.... In reality we don't live so much by the clock as we do by the ebb and flow dictated by our stories.

Q: When you were getting your journalism training, did you forsee yourself hanging out on the farm?

A: I never foresaw myself heading toward a career in ag journalism. I still dream about features gigs pioneered by guys like Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke or some column like Sharon Begley's Science Journal in The Wall Street Journal But when I think of moving on in my career, I pause because I realize how lucky I am. Agriculture is so diverse, I never get stuck on a boring beat, I've got a great mixture of chatting with high-level government officials, both state, federal and local, informative lectures and one-on-one conversations with leading academicians and great times in the field--whether it be with herding dogs, hogs or wine producers.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: The diversity of the beat, being able to write from home sometimes, traveling around Indiana and learning how much cool stuff is really here, the freedom to plan my own story schedule and creatively approach my stories, even injecting a bit of humor from time to time. It is also nice to work for a relatively small family-owned publication that demonstrates an appreciation of their employees through annual bonuses, good insurance benefits, a 401K, pension plan and additional savings incentives.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: I wish I could remember exactly who they came from, but Editor & Publisher once quoted an old magazine editor as saying, "Reporting is just a matter of an ignorant person becoming a little less ignorant."

This is now my personal motto, as I've found admitting ignorance gets me much further than pretending like I know what's going on when nine times out of 10 I have no clue, and that's why I'm asking in the first place.


Age: 39

Title: Freelance writer

As a freelance writer, Larry Olmsted's name has appeared countless times in a number of publications. But perhaps the two most impressive are his listings in the Guinness Book of World Records. Olmsted has set two while pursuing stories. One of those records was set while playing golf in Australia and Los Angeles--on the same day. At left, Olmsted prepares to tee off while playing at the New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney.


Q: Where did you get your journalism training?

A: Self taught. I went to Georgetown University, where I majored in government and minored in economics, with the intent of going to law school. But I always had a great aptitude for and enjoyment of writing.

At the eleventh hour, I decided that law was not for me, and embarked on an entrepreneurial career in real estate and telecommunications for about seven years.

During this time I wrote a novel, a crime thriller. When I got bored and sold my business, I goofed off for a year, biking, skiing and playing golf while my wife worked. Understandably, she got tired of this. I had sent my novel to several publishing houses, all of which rejected it, but as far as I could tell, none of them actually read it. I still think it's commercial.

My wife suggested I try writing something else, maybe an article. I wrote a piece and submitted it to a local magazine which bought it for $150. Voila. I went from there, marrying my writing skills with my entrepreneurial experience, and ran my freelance career as a business, taking the time to identify what kind of things magazines wanted, developing tight pitches, and delivering polished products on time.

I knew nothing about the industry when I started. I know an enormous amount about it now. For me, ignorance was bliss, because it is very hard to be successful as a freelancer.

Q: On your quest for stories, you have set two world records. How did you get the idea for these stories? Furthermore, why did you subject yourself to breaking the records?

A: I had been traveling in Europe a couple of years ago and read somewhere that the Guinness World Records was coming up on its 50th anniversary (in 2005). I am always looking for unique story angles, and I realized that here was something that enjoyed vast name recognition, was a huge brand, but almost nobody knows anything about it. Anything like that is a perfect armchair piece, especially since the records have a lot of humor to them and I enjoy writing humorous pieces.

... So I thought I would pitch a piece on the history of the Guinness World Records, including some of the odder examples. But before I got around to that, I was at an editorial meeting at Golf Magazine, the nation's leading golf publication, and they announced an intent to shift their editorial focus to become perceived as less stodgy.

They were looking for "out of the box" fun ideas and put me on the spot. For some reason, Guinness popped into my head and I blurted out about it being the anniversary, and how about if I wrote a funny first-person piece on my attempt at breaking a Guinness World Record in the golf category. They loved it and told me to figure out the logistics.

Q: What golf record did you break?

A: I looked at all the existing records. Many are skill based, such as the lowest score in a round, most money earned in a season, that kind of thing, and they are held by people like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Being a better traveler than player, I decided to break "The Longest Distance Traveled Between Two 18-Hole Rounds Played in the Same Day." I checked out the Guinness rules, took out a map, started checking flight schedules.

Using the International Date Line to my advantage, I found the best route for me to shatter the existing mark was to play in the morning in Sydney, Australia and the afternoon in Los Angeles. So I did it, and set a new record at 7,496 miles. The challenge was more logistical than physical, though flying to Australia and back in a short span is tiring.... I was all over the news in Sydney, and Channel 9, their largest station, sent a crew to the course and then to the airport to cover me. In the U.S., I was featured on Good Morning America, local news shows all over the country, and was named a Top 10 Play of the Day on ESPN. The article I ended up doing for Golf Magazine was also quite successful, and to this day, I meet people playing golf who remember the story.

Q: You also set a world record for poker playing, correct?

A: I have been writing a lot on the poker craze in the last couple of years, since I am a longtime and avid player, and over the years I have written a lot of travel features on Las Vegas, and I have seen firsthand in casinos how hot poker has gotten. So I decided to tackle poker.

... Unlike golf, there were no poker records, so I had to apply to Guinness for permission to set one. We worked out all the details, since they are fanatical about fine print and witnesses, and I arranged to set the record for the "Longest Continuous Casino Poker Playing Session".

I was allowed a 15-minute break every 8 hours to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, etc., but could take no naps, and had to eat all my meals at the table while I played. I played 7-card stud in the same chair at Foxwoods, the world's largest casino (I liked the record within a record motif), in Connecticut, for 72 hours and 2 minutes.

Along the way I had massive hallucinations, dementia, slurred speech, blurred vision, short term memory loss, you name it. At one point a worried casino manager asked me my name and I could not remember it, but I bounced back.

I later read a U.S. Army report on the effects on soldiers after 72 hours in the field with no sleep, and I had every condition listed. I have done a lot of endurance sports, including riding my mountain bike for 24 hours through the night, and this was by far the hardest thing I ever did.

Q: Do you plan on breaking any more world records, or have you decided to hang it up?

A: Yes and no. I am working on a book proposal about my experience breaking Guinness World Records, a humorous first person series of essays, along with a historical background of the records themselves.

Now I have two good experiences, both humorous, from which to develop sample chapters. If I can sell the book for a reasonable amount, I'll do several more. Or if a magazine wanted to pay me to do another story I would. But I am not in it for the glory or 15 minutes of "fame," I am in it to get paid for my writing.

When you are a full-time freelancer, a professional writer like myself, you cannot afford to waste a lot of time. These records take longer than people realize, because they have to be meticulously planned months in advance, working with Guinness, then they have to be equally meticulously documented after the fact.

The time from when I applied for permission to break the golf record to when I received my diploma-like certificate was 9 months.

Q: Do you have any words to live by?

A: For journalists: "Don't promise what you can't deliver, and always deliver what you promise. Don't worry about being such an artiste."

For would be Guinness Record Breakers/Setters, to paraphrase Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."

For my accountant, to paraphrase Tug McGraw: "I blew most of money on booze and broads. The rest I wasted."

For my wife, to paraphrase Dorothy: "There's no place like home."

For everyone else: "Live life. You can rest when you're dead." Also, get a dog, preferably a golden retriever.


Age: 24

Title: Senior, Columbia graduate school. Intern at Outside magazine

SPJ member Sara Blask is just starting out in her journalism career. She will receive her master's degree this month from Columbia. But as a former dogsled guide and Outward Bound instructor, she has already spent more time in more extreme conditions than most of us will ever do. Ironically, she grew up in the warm Texas sun.


Q: You are a former dog-sledding guide. How long ago was it and how did you get involved in that?

A: Last winter I guided dog-sledding expeditions in New Hampshire's White Mountains and Maine's Mahoosic Mountains. I lived with two veteran mushers and Outward Bound instructors who own Winter Journeys, a Maine-based kennel with 33 husky/malamute mixes. My job title was "dog handler," which I affectionately refer to as "canine au pair." In addition to guiding, I was also responsible for training the dogs and feeding them (yes, raw meat) at 5:30 a.m.

Q: What was the most extreme trip you took on a dogsled? What were most of the trips like?

A: In the mushing world, poor snow and ice conditions can mean the difference between an upright or a tipped sled. Tipped sleds are bad. There is no way to control the sled because the runners, which allow the sled to glide over the snow or ice, are facing sideways. The cardinal mushing rule is "don't let go, never let go, don't let go." If you lose your sled, and a team of, say, eight dogs, it could be hours before you find them again, if ever. I managed to tip the sled just once and have never let go of a sled, but it can happen to even veteran mushers.

The length of the trips depended upon the client; some were daylong, others a half-day. By the end of the day, most clients felt comfortable enough with the dogs to stand on the back of the sled and help drive the team.

Some day I hope to get to Greenland or perhaps the Yukon to drive a team of dogs. They use a different kind of formation in the northern lands, a fan formation where the dogs are fanned out rather than in a straight line. The fan formations allows dogs to use their collective strength to pull a sled or one of their own out of a crevasse or a hole in the ice should one of them fall through.

Q: You seem to have an interest in frigid activities. Did you grow up in these conditions? What's the fascination with the bitter cold?

A: I grew up in Texas until I was 14 and then went to boarding school in Santa Barbara, Calif., until I was 18. I was a creature of heat and sunshine. I found myself at Colby College in Maine for my undergraduate degree. It was in Maine that I grew to love the cold, and it was there that I was first introduced to such miserable and extreme cold that sometimes my eyelashes would freeze shut. I soon found myself spending more time outside in the cold than outside in the heat. There is something so stark and se clean about cold weather--and it keeps the tourists and the chairlift lines down. Last winter, I traveled to Iceland in December to write a travel article; I seek this twisted stuff out for myself. My room just rolls her eyes.

Q: You are an instructor for Outward Bound, a national nonprofit educational organization that often uses the outdoors to teach their message. Why did you decided to join this group?

A: I believe in Outward Bound's vision that, essentially, there's more in you than you think, and that inner strength and self-confidence is gained by overcoming personal challenge. As a former sailing instructor and logistics coordinator for Hurricane Island Outward Bound, I have personally seen students transform. Sounds a little odd, but often it is the series of cold, wet and often-windless days off of the foggy Maine coast that trigger the kind of personal growth that is sometimes grossly over described in the brochure. Though it may seem counterintuitive, students more often than not return from an Outward Bound course irrevocably changed. That change is not quantifiable; it is seen and heard and felt. They hold their heads higher, they speak with more confidence, they want to teach others their newly found knowledge. They simply become more comfortable in their own skin.

Q: Do you have any other adventure-type stories on the horizon?

A: For financial reasons I decided to cancel a trip to Greenland this March to write about shark angling on the Arctic Sea ice. I have several other stories brewing but must keep them under lock and key until the pitches are accepted. Let's just say the stories would take me to Russia, China, Tuva and Greenland.

Q: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to get into extreme journalism?

A: I have aspired to be a travel/adventure writer since I first read a column written by Pico Iyer in Outside magazine in October 1998. Titled "Enlighten My Load," the article chronicles one of his trips to Tibet and has traveled with me over the years from desk to desk, journal to journal. The text, new yellowed and tattered, reminds me that my passions for writing, travel and the outdoors are equally strong and that, really, none need trump the other. My ideal career blends them all; through writing I aspire to inspire--to, as Edward Abbey writes, "get out there ... run the rivers, contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space."

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in adventure journalism?

A: Get out there--and bring a pen to write with while you're there.

Q: Do you have plans to marry and settle down with a family?

A: Not anytime soon. This nomadic writer's life of mine doesn't make it easy to plant myself anywhere for any extended period of time.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: I was pretty excited to see my name in print for the first time. My first byline was in The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press in July 2001. I'm pretty sure the story was about a woman who had bunion surgery--not too much color there.

Q: Money is sometimes hard to come by for a student. How do you fund your adventures?

A: Ah yes, touchy subject. I have personally funded most of my adventures se far. I rarely make enough money selling the piece to cover my expenses and often lose money overall. But I've seen some pretty unbelievable parts of the world, and I've been willing to come out of pocket because of it. This was, of course, before graduate school began. New that I have substantial loans to begin to pay off, it's now a must that I make enough money to cover my expenses. I think this will get more and more realistic as I acquire bylines in bigger publications and more experience overall as a writer. This will all take time, though.


Age: 44

Title: Freelance writer

Tom Clynes has trucked through the Outback and reported on the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. He even followed a group of American conservationists to Africa to report on their efforts to stop poaching. But perhaps his biggest challenge will be balancing his career and his duties as a father.


Q: Where did you get your journalism training?

A: I came into this career completely sideways, driven mostly by curiosity and skepticism. I was terribly bored by high school and not successful academically, but I enrolled in a community college, where a composition instructor told me that I had a knack for wordsmithing. I transferred to the University of Michigan and got a weekly gig as a music critic for a local newspaper. Then, to support my traveling, I took temporary writing jobs in advertising, public relations and market research. I would work for a few months, then hit the road. But I found it impossible, during the first few years, to make a living from journalistic writing.

In 1994, I wrote a proposal for the book that would become Wild Planet, a guide to festivals, celebrations and tribal gatherings all around the world. The book got a lot of attention, but after a second book, I turned toward magazines. In 1998 one of my stories caught the attention of an editor at National Geographic's new magazine, Adventure. The story, about riding through the Australian outback with "the world's toughest trucker," ran in the debut issue. The magazine turned out a good fit for the kind of stories I wanted to do, and we've worked together ever since.

Q: In addition to the trucker in Australia, you have done stories on poaching in Africa and doctors fighting Ebola in Uganda. Where do you get your story ideas?

A: I usually come across my next story in the course of chasing the last one. Sometimes, I'll follow up on something that I learn through a conversation with someone, or I'll see an unmined angle in something I read. Also, editors often come to me with ideas.

Q: What is the most remote place you have been? How long were you there and what were the living conditions like?

A: The eastern part of the Central African Republic is pretty remote. I was reporting on a band of American conservationists who persuaded the country's president to let them raise a militia and take over the eastern third of the country. Their mission was to drive out the marauding gangs of Sudanese poachers who are rapidly wiping out the region's wildlife. I was traveling with a gang of bungling mercenaries, and the conditions weren't too wretched, although in some spots there were a lot of rats. It's hard to sleep when they are running over your legs.

Q: What is the most dangerous assignment you have been on?

A: I don't cover all-out wars, but I sometimes travel to low-level conflict zones and very off-balance places. I traveled to the Ebola epidemic in northern Uganda to do an in-depth story on the doctors and virus hunters working there. I had convinced myself and my family that since the doctors know how to protect themselves, I'd be safe if I followed their lead. This theory was quashed when one of the doctors contracted Ebola and died.

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in adventure journalism?

A: I can't think of a more rewarding endeavor. Every story is like starting a new career from scratch, and there's tremendous freedom. But this is a long-term undertaking, and the initial frustrations are fairly extravagant. Those who are humble and willing to learn from their mistakes--and willing to make friends with uncertainty--will probably be successful if they keep trying. But somewhere along the way most people choose (perhaps wisely) to shift their attention to other aspects of life (relationships, other job opportunities, health), and they drop out of the writing life.

Q: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to get into adventure/extreme journalism? Do you consider yourself extreme?

A: I don't know if I'm "extreme" or just easily bored. I grew up in a suburb of a factory town in Michigan, and I was convinced that any other place on Earth had to be more interesting--which wasn't far from the truth. I always knew that to keep things interesting I'd have to take some risks. As a teenager, I secretly hitchhiked to the East Coast to see a girl; it turned into a great adventure, and I was hooked on the uncertainty and vulnerability of unstructured travel. After I graduated from college, I sold my car for $500 and bought a one-way ticket to London. I learned how to brew beer and saw a lot of post-punk bands, then I just kept going, traveling on the cheap through Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Q: What has been your proudest journalistic moment?

A: I don't know if I could pinpoint one. I love to hear that a publication is getting lots of mail in reaction to my stories, because it means that people were affected enough to take some action.

Q: How do you fund your trips?

A: Typically, I'll hit the road with a contract, and the publication will pay the travel expenses and story fee. Nearly all of my assignments are pinned down in advance, but I still try to do occasional speculative stories. It's important to sometimes venture out with nothing but your own vision, unchanneled by an editor's needs.

Q: What are some of the publications you have written for?

A: The Times of London, The Observer (London), Backpacker, Outside Magazine, The Washington Post, Popular Science and many others.

Q: Do you have plans to marry and settle down with a family or would that crimp your career?

A: I am, in fact, married, and we have a toddler son, who is the most adventurous guy I know. He's fascinated by life and by every new thing. As for making my career fit into this rather new domestic situation, we're still working that out.

Q: With a wife and young child, when do you think you will slow down and get a more traditional job?

A: Never. Before I went to freelance, I worked as an advertising copywriter and a speechwriter. I didn't make a very good employee then, and I'd be much worse now, because I can't imagine anyone telling me when to show up or how to dress. When I went out on my own, I vowed that I would never again work under fluorescent lights.

Q: Any words to live by?

A: For me, the freelance life is still mostly about freedom and satisfying curiosity. No matter how much you read, you can't be truly well-informed if you're seeing the world mainly through other people's filters. I believe that it's intrinsically worthwhile to go and find out, for yourself, what's happening out there.
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Title Annotation:correspondents, freelance photographers
Publication:The Quill
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
Previous Article:SPJ revitalizing role as journalism educator.
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