This is a collection of experiences and reflections from journalists, old hands and new ones, who see beyond the story at hand. For more practical advice, and rip-roaring tales of life on the road, check out the new book Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting. If you’d like to contribute, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For periodic musings, grumbling and occasional fresh ideas on global reporting, check out Mort's Notebook. Follow us with the Madmen at Work RSS Feed .

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Old Pro, New World
By Donald Kirk
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Posted on August 22, 2010

Once upon a time in a dark age only dimly remembered, we used typewriters and ran down to the cable office with our copy, breathlessly begging and sometimes bribing operators to punch it out before all the other junk on the pile. In Jakarta in 1965, I told a guy behind the desk laboriously counting the words that he could save time by estimating the word count and then doubling it. I’d be glad to pay, but he persisted in counting. Later, I found his supervisor and put him on the payroll – the equivalent of about twenty dollars a month. He came around to my place regularly. We sipped tea. I gave him the dough. That way, all my copy got out fast to the three or four papers for which I was filing. Once I went to the room where half a dozen operators were punching away. My man smiled and said, “Mr. Kirk, everyone’s working for you.”


On Cuba
By Hillary Profita for

Originally Posted on on August 8, 2006

Posted on Madmen on Aug. 24, 2010

We haven't heard much about Cuban President Fidel Castro's condition since the announcement last week that he was provisionally transferring power to his brother Raul while Fidel underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding and recovered. Indeed, gathering the facts about what's going on behind the scenes of a tightly controlled Communist regime is not easy, as CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum, who is based in Cuba full time, is well aware. Here, she describes the challenges in covering the biggest story out of the island since the Pope's visit there in 1998 – a story that the Cuban government was much more enthusiastic about sharing with the world.

There are no rules or guidelines for covering the news in Cuba except a really big one: If the government wants coverage, you'll get access. If they don't you won't.


On the New Foreign Correspondent
By Michael Holtz
Aug. 13, 2010

With many of the traditional routes to foreign reporting all but obsolete, becoming a foreign correspondent is as easy as ever. To do so no longer requires a temporary stint at a news organization’s domestic bureau or a 10-year commitment to climbing the ranks of some abstract reporter hierarchy. Making a career as a foreign correspondent isn’t so simple.


On Being a Foreign Correspondent in Russia
By Brian Montopoli for
Originally Posted on on June 6, 2006

Posted on Madmen on Aug. 13, 2010

This week, more than 1,700 top newspaper editors from around the world are meeting in Moscow for the World Association of Newspapers Congress' annual convention. The meetings, notes the BBC, opened "with harsh criticism of Russia's media freedom." Russian President Vladimir Putin defended himself against charges that the state was trying to increase its control of the press. "There is still very widespread skepticism, both inside and outside your country, about whether there exists any real willingness to see the media become a financially strong, influential and independent participant in Russian society today," World Association of Newspapers Congress President Gavin O'Reilly told Putin.


On Documenting Crimes Against Humanity: Khmer Rouge
By Seth Mydans

Posted August 7, 2010
From The New York Times, August 6, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

FOR seven long years, Thet Sambath lived in a world of secrets as he courted and won the trust of the former Khmer Rouge leader he holds responsible for the deaths of his parents.


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