Wise words from heroes

One of my greatest heroes finally wrote me back. How encouraging! I learn so much every time I talk to the people I admire. I e-mailed him a while ago asking how he made it through the tough times, like while he was reporting on the tsumani. During his last trip, his photographer, Betty, fell and puntured her leg. To make a long story short, it became infected and she had to be shipped out. So my question for Hal was how did he make it through that time without his journalistic defenses of distance and support (from Betty). Below is a copy of his e-mail. The second to last paragraph is what spoke to me the most. He is essentially putting into words, the dreams I could never capture in writing.

Dear Sarah,
Sorry to take so long to get back with you. I very much appreciated your note, and encourage you to go for your journalism dreams in every way, shape and form that you can.
I think – that for a large part- survival instincts, as well as adrenalin, kicked in to help me get through the toughest times in Indonesia. When you look around you at all the people who have lost loved ones, certainly my own problems are put in perspective. But it was certainly very difficult for me to keep focused when Betty’s leg was swelling up from infection, and then the worry about her after her departure also sometimes kept me from fully focusing on reporting. Then, as I mentioned at the conference, I also had problems with the military as I was reporting on the Aceh war, and that also proved to be unsettling.
On this trip, as in others, I am essentially fueled by the passion to learn about the world, and I never cease to marvel that someone actually pays me to go out and educate myself. This is the great gift of journalism, in my mind, that someone pays you for your continuing education. And as long as you remain curious, and humble enough to want to learn with an open mind, then you can usually do a reasonable job.
If you are interested in overseas reporting, I would suggest you consider a freelance option after you get out of college, and head on over to a place that interests you, is generating news, and is hopefully reasonably safe. Often, you can get a fe clips and learn a lot, even if you don’t get rich.
I hope this has been of help, and I would be happy to answer more questions.
Thanks again for your kind words.
Hal Bernton

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