Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

My trip to Trier

Many years ago, in the early nineties, my boss sent me to Eastern Germany for a week to visit an engine factory which was producing pieces for a car manufacturer of my community.

The reunification of Germany was very recent. And the big western firms had just landed there occupying the old factories they had lost when the country was divided after the WWII. The firm I was going to visit had just installed the new state-of-the-art chain of production inside the old building and had trained the workers to start the production immediately. Finally, little by little they were repairing the building.

It was really interesting to see How they were doing the transition from the communist way of working to the Western way. Very efficient. The main problem, they explain us, was that the big communist factories that had given jobs for thousands and thousands of workers with obsolete systems, now could improve the production with only the 30% of the workers, so the unemployment was high those years.

Our hosts booked for us rooms at a hotel near Trier, the home town of Karl Marx. It’s an area were there are almost no catholics. But we were going to be there in Sunday and I wanted to go to Mass. A young man who was our driver, promised me he would do everything possible to find me a church.

On Sunday, very early in the morning he came to pick me up, and drove me for half an hour to a place were there was a regular one-story house, very old in appearance, all outside covered by dark grey concrete, that seemed a family house instead of a church.

I had no inkling on what was going to find inside. The door was open, so I went in and the first thing I saw was an enormous organ with a man playing Bach beautifully and a space with the walls covered with child’s drawings, and like ten or twelve pews full of people in front of an altar.

I know no German, but I was deeply moved by the celebration because of the faith and the sense of community I could feel in those people. When we finished I had to wait for my driver . And I could see that the mass goers were looking at me quizzically. A woman left the group and approached me. She could speak a little English, and she asked me if I was going to stay with them, because the community wanted to welcome me. I explained to her that I was a Journalist and I was going to left next day and she seemed disappointed.

She explained me that they were a little community but very active, with a little Sunday school. That they were there for me in whatever I could need. I certainly felt welcomed and part of a community in which I only partook one Sunday, thanks to my kind driver.

Inkling

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism

Forlorn

curricula024Back in the 90s I went to Bosnia Herzegovina as a reporter during the Balkans war. I contacted with a local journalist hoping to obtain some good sources and information about what was going on in Mostar, taking advantage of my knowledge of the language. So I left the group of foreign correspondents who were working in the area with a translator, based in Medjugorje, where the Spanish troops had their headquarters.

The local journalist began giving me valuable information, but to my disgust and horror, very soon I could realize that he didn’t want to help me with the info, he only wanted to be alone with me to abuse me. I managed to escape unharmed, but I found myself alone in the unknown and I had to go back to my hotel in Medjugorje.

The road was completely dark and deserted and there was the danger of the possible attacks of the Serbian militias stationed on the mountains around. I was feeling forlorn and scared. I only wanted to hide in a safe place for the night.

I finally arrived to Medjugorje and found my hotel. Some of my colleagues had organized a dancing party. I was not in the mood. The war, the attempt against me, the scary trip to Medjugorje, had been too much for me. Besides I found scandalous organize a feast  then and there.

Next morning, very early, I went to the church of the village were they say there are apparitions of the Virgin Mary and miracles. I attended Mass and gave thanks to God to have saved me the day before.

Forlorn

Fernando

There was a living legend in my newsroom. A seasoned coworker who had lost his right arm in an accident during her youth, but was able to write fast enough with his left hand. He had a vast culture and he had among others a very popular column about music, his passion.

He was known among us because he had answers for everything . His memory and his encyclopedic knowledge was impressive. Before the times of Wikipedia and google, when we needed some data, we asked him because it was faster than go to check in a book or an encyclopedia. Sometimes my coworkers used to asked him difficult questions just to try him. In my 27 years working besides him I never caught him in a fault.

Only once, he didn’t know the answer to the question a journalist made him. But he sure knew where to find the answer in a few seconds. Even when the Internet was the king of the information, we used to check with him. He was fast, reliable, and human.

Bright, with a peculiar sense of humor. Resorting to him you would take back an answer and a smile or a laugh. Fernando (FPO) never disappointed us. Only when he got ill too soon and passed away. The companion and friend left us, The legend remain

Legend

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism

The field of certainty

As a reporter I had to move myself in the field of certainty, to be able to report about true news and don’t defraud my readers with a dubious story not enough contrasted. I used to check twice or more times every fact before publishing it.

I had a source, when I was a reporter in courts, that used to call me “sureolga” because of the many times I used to call him to check facts and get clarifications about the trials and the investigations going on. I knew that my way of working was a little slower than the others who just told the story as it happened without any further checking, but I couldn’t help myself.

Even though my bosses wanted more speed to finish the edition before ten in the evening with an appealing headline.

I knew that the fame of the people involved was at stake and that’s not a child’s game. I always thought that’s better write a good and complete news than have a fast but dubious one, and have to rectify next day.

I’m proud to say that in my years of reporter in courts I never had to rectify a single news I had written. And that’s not easy.

Dubious

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

Disturbing Moonless Nights

As a reporter I had to report about a shooting between policemen and terrorists that took place in a natural landscape of great beauty, a narrow gorge formed by a river.

Apparently, four terrorists were making plans for an attack while spending the day by the river, when they were intercepted by the police by chance.In the shooting a policeman died and another was wounded. The terrorists fled along the riverbank and disappeared into the vegetation.

The river is not practicable to swim because it has dangerous swirls and very deep pits and the only accesses to the gorge are the ends of the old railway tunnel wich runs well above the river bed. The police closed the two ends, as soon as the shooting occurred, so that the terrorists had no way of getting out of there.

And the manhunt began with the special forces using choppers in the air and dogs on the ground. The moonless night fell, black as tar. There was no trace of the terrorists. At dawn, one of them, badly wounded in the head, surrendered to the special forces that were combing the area and took them to where the others were at the river’s edge. they were dead. They had decided to commit suicide before being captured. He had tried to commit suicide but he had missed the shot. It was a pretty mysterious how the police didn’t hear the shots while combing the place.

I was horrified by everything that was happening. I had been the first journalist on the scene with my photographer and I was there when the terrorists were still on the run. Pretty dangerous despite we were going everywhere with the police.

The next night, a neighbour from the town closest to the place called my newsroom saying that shots had been heard again in the gorge. The terrorists were already dead. The special forces gone. ¿what could possibly had happened? My boss sent me to investigate.

I was very young and was in charge of another journalist even younger than me. We went with a beginner photographer. We arrived at the gorge and again we found ourselves with a dark and moonless night. But this time was scarier because we were completely alone. No police, no other journalists. no living soul.

We asked in the village and nobody had heard anything. When we arrived with my little Panda car at the black entrance of the tunnel I knew that there was no possibility of turning around to leave in one mile, and I felt responsible for the other two who were with me. So I decided to go around to the exit of the tunnel to see what we could find there.

Everything was dark and silent and again nobody had heard anything. We went a little further to the police station to which the dead and wounded policeman belonged to speak with their pals and they confirmed that everything was quiet. So we went back to the newsroom with nothing to report other than an update about the health of the wounded police officer, but at least we were safe and sound.

Black

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

The mysterious tape

Once, my boss sent me to make an interview to a scientist who had done some research in a very complicated and highly specific area of the bio chemistry for his PhD. The headline of his thesis was completely incomprehensible. The whole thing certainly might be interesting for the scientist community but very difficult to explain for the general public. But the scientist, a young man, was the nephew of a good friend of my boss, so his study had to become news in my newspaper no matter what.

When I asked him for an interview, he was surprised. He couldn’t understand why a journalist of a local newspaper could have any interest in his work. I asked him to explain me what was he doing in his lab as if I were (as I actually was) a completely ignorant about the matter.

I put my recorder in front of him and began to ask questions and take notes. He started to tell me about technical terms incomprehensible for me. He didn’t know what “say it in plain English” meant. There was no way to make him touch ground. I tried my best, but, when I went back to the newsroom I only had some chaotic notes and a tape (it was before the digital era) with 45 minutes of a recorded conversation in which I had placed all my hopes.

I rewinded the tape, I pressed the play button of my tape recorder to listen to the interview and mysteriously, all the conversation sounded backwards. Yes. Our voices were there talking, but it was like we were swallowing each word. It was impossible to understand a single one of them.

In all my life as a reporter never had happened to me something like that. I’ve never had found an explanation to such a strange behavior of the tape. It never happened before, never after. I asked technicians an other journalists, and nobody could give me an explanation. Of course, without the recording I couldn’t write the interview.

In the picture, me and my tape recorder in another interview different that the one described in this post.

Mystery

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

Surreal

As a reporter I witnessed a police operation against a violent terrorist cell in my city, and two years after, I was called to take the stand as a witness during the trial against the terrorists. They promised me total discretion and that my name would not be disclosed.

I had to go to Madrid because the crimes related to terrorism are competence of a National High Tribunal. Once there, we, the witnesses, were waiting for the beginning of the trial, when a bus with supporters of the terrorists coming from my city arrived. The clerks and the security guards wanted that we were called by our names publicly in front of all those people who were looking at us as the enemy. Finally, talking with the security guards, we entered the building thru another door.

While I was waiting for my turn to take the stand I was searched thoroughly by a police woman, like if I was a criminal instead of a witness. Then, when my turn finally arrived, I entered the courtroom, and I had to stand next to an armored glass cage where the accused were. One of them had threatened me to death two years before when the police operation was taking place. I looked at them. They were laughing at me.

The first thing the judge said was ask me about my name and surname and repeat them aloud several times, because my surname is not very easy to pronounce for a Spaniard. Next he said aloud my address. So, that was the total discretion they promised me. The alleged terrorists in the cage were laughing loud, apparently having a great time. (They explained afterwards to me that it is a tactic of them to intimidate the witnesses).

To my surprise, the District Attorney didn’t know what to ask me. He didn’t know I was a journalist and that I had written everything I’ve seen in my newspaper. He didn’t know that I witnessed how one of the suspects opened the door of a hiding place where there was a large cache of weapons… I couldn’t believe it.

Finally, I finished answering questions and was dismissed. When all that was over, I wanted to refresh my mind and I decided to go to visit some museums in Madrid.

I went to El Prado, and when I was inside, suddenly there was an alarm and we were all evicted by bomb warning. I went to the Thyssen Museum, and it happened again.

So I decided to take a walk far away from the courthouse and wait calmly for the hour of my trip back home. Surreal
Surreal

Posted in daily prompt

(bad) Dream

I’ve worked many years as reporter on courts. I got to know everything about criminals. I remember once I attended a trial against a man who was clearly innocent and was dragged to the courts by the false testimony of an evil  woman and her daughter. She was the head of an organisation of smuggled immigrants. Fortunately his lawyer was able to expose evident inconsistencies between the testimonies of the two women and he was set free. I don’t know why, there were no charges against the two women. I remember I went home deeply impressed by that case, and that night I had a nightmare. In my dream the police arrested me and sent me to jail without telling me why. One, two, three, four, five heavy doors, had closed with a clang behind me. I was stripped of everything I had. Reduced to a number. If only I could be alone! But not. I had been thrown in a cell where another inmate was living. I’m used to live in the inner jail of my depression, I’m not scared of solitude. But being the whole time under the gaze of a stranger, when I was so scared and puzzled, was a torture. I looked up and saw two narrow windows with bars. The view: a concrete wall. I was trapped. The anguish was unbearable. I woke up in tears.

Dream

Posted in daily prompt

Beach

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, seventeen years ago. That place was then the escape valve of my stress, the confidant of my sorrows and joys, the scenery of my solace.
Yes. Those were wonderful and difficult years at the same time. I was far away from home, trying to heal deep wounds in my health and my soul and build a new life. I had got a job as a stringer for a news agency. I had to build my net of sources because I had had to begin from scratch. Everything was new and exciting. I had my home office and I had to work hard in the morning and the afternoon. But usually at 5 pm I was done.
It was time for my walk on the beach. I let the roar of the waves and the wind enfold me, so I could think calmly about what had happened during the day, or simply empty my mind and enjoy the nature.
I loved to observe the flight of the pelicans. Or the funny behaviour of the beach birds.
I miss those walks so much…
It has been a long time since I left the States, but I’ll never forget those wonderful walks on the Ocean Beach in San Francisco

Beach

Posted in daily prompt

Newspaper

Since I have memory I remember my dad writing his column for the daily newspaper trying to explain to the readers the main international events. I’d learned at so tender age how stressful was to live with a daily deadline.

But journalism is like a contagious sickness and despite my father’s warnings, I decided years later to follow him in his profession.

Since then, I’ve lived for thirty years day after day, devoted to the newspaper that my readers would be reading the next day. I’ve known joyful days, good days, triumphant days, bad days, tragic days. Almost not boring days. Mostly stressful days, running against the clock to reach the deadline with my story ready for the press. I’ve known many people. From the most remarkable person you can imagine, to the most despicable. I’ve done hundreds of interviews. I’ve investigated cases. I’ve traveled. I’ve searched for the truth about what I was writing. It was a way of life. I was used to see everything from a news point of view. I’ve developed a sixth sense for news that allowed me be the first one on some scenes and get some exclusives.

In this picture you can see a young version of me questioning the former president of Navarre, with my notepad and my tape recorder.

me as a reporter029

Unfortunately, because of my lack of health I had to retire three years ago after a long career. But I cant help to myself. When I see something that can become news, I call my friends at the newspaper or I go to see by myself what’s going on. For instance, this morning, I was pretty tired, and I decided to go out to take some pictures of flowers at the park to get some air and rest. Suddenly, I heard the sound of trumpets and shouts, and of course, I went to see what was going on. The minister of interior affairs was in town, to preside a ceremony in honor of the national police. I took some pictures.

police-0067

This days the newspapers are in crisis because of the digital media. The sales are going down above all among young people. They are trying to find a hybrid formula with the paper edition, and paid premium on-line editions. I personally like to read a trusted local paper and then surf the internet for fresh news, but always among qualified sources.

Posted in daily prompt

Barcelona, Madrid

Write about something that happened over the weekend as though it’s the top story on your local paper

I’m a journalist. I’ve worked in a newspaper almost all my career and don’t like publish old news. Come on! today is Thursday! and you are asking me that I write headlines about something that happened four or five days ago! That’s against my principles. Besides, nothing eventful happened during the weekend other than me putting away all the Christmas decorations in my mother’s house. (Here we have all the decorations on place till the Sunday after Epiphany).
More interesting is what’s happening today in Madrid and Barcelona. In Barcelona, the new Catalonian Government took over with a program designed to reach the independence with the Catalonian society highly divided on the issue. Nevertheless, they announced a plan to “unplug” Catalonia of the rest of Spain. Madrid has said that will not allow such a thing. But meanwhile, in Madrid, after the recent elections, there are great difficulties to establish a strong Central Government, because there is no clear parliamentary majority, or chance of stable coalitions. So, we will have weeks or months of political instability in the horizon.

Ripped Into the Headline

Posted in daily prompt

The rioter

Share the story of a time you felt unsafe.

Being a reporter is not very safe. I have lots of stories of times when I felt in danger and I was afraid. Once, years ago, I got notice that a lawyer and politician was going to be detained accused of collaboration with terrorism. I went to the street to get the information and I found a violent demonstration with young guys with their faces covered throwing molotov cocktails and stones to the police and to the press, meaning me, among others.

Suddenly I found myself alone in the middle of the street under a balcony, from where two leaders of the radical political party were watching the riots. In front of me was a masked youngster with his molotov cocktail, screaming: “it’s for you!”, while the two leaders were yelling: “to her, to her!”. I was terrified, but I don’t know why, very calm. I didn’t move because I saw that the rioter was like frozen with his molotov cocktail in position to throw it, but not decided. I thought that if I made a fast movement like run to escape, he would react attacking me. So I waited looking directly at his eyes, the only part of his face uncovered. It surely lasted a few seconds but for me were like hours, until somebody approached me from my back and advanced till he was between the rioter and me. He was Xavier, my photographer. He told me: “Come with me, because we have heard them talk, and they are planing to hurt you today”. We began to walk away slowly. Xavier always between the rioter and me. The youngster desisted, threw the cocktail to the ground and escaped. The police was approaching. Xavier saved me that day.

Safety First

Posted in challenges, daily prompt

Repulsive Building

The police made a raid against a net of heroine trafficking in a marginal neighbourhood. I had to go to cover the information for my newspaper. The main operation took place in a building near the train station. Petty drug dealers lived there in filthy apartments, where they had made holes on the walls to escape from one to another for when the police arrive with a search warrant. When the police arrived they escaped through the holes and threw their small bags with the heroin through the windows to the courtyard. They were getting rid of the incriminating evidences. And with success. Because the courtyard was an enormous dump And it was almost impossible to find a thing over there.

The outlaws inhabitants of the building hadn’t used the pickup trash services and simply had thrown their waste through the window to the courtyard year after year, creating a major sanitary problem. When I approached the building to follow the police operation, I noticed that the mountain of trash had completely blocked the windows of the first floor and half the second floor. There was a sort of garage down there, completely darkened because of the trash against the windows. On the floor a dark liquid infested by rats. The stench was insufferable.
Next to that disaster there was a twin building with impoverished families living there. An old woman was sweeping carefully the main door trying to keep her home clean in contrast with the terrible filthiness of their neighbours.

After that incident, the city council decided to demolish the houses, sanitize the area and build new ones for the poor families. Now the area remains clean.

Topic Generator

Posted in challenges

Outstanding Recording

Once, my boss asked me to do an interview to a young doctor about his doctoral thesis. A complicated investigation, very specialised. The truth was that it was a compromise, because the doctor was the nephew of a very influential man with interests in the newspaper.

When I arrived to the lab, the young scientist recognised he was utterly surprised that a newspaper would show interest in his work. His investigation was rather specific and not easy to explain. I spent almost two hours listening to him talking about technical terms I hardly could understand, puzzled. Luckily, I had my recorder with me, and I taped the whole conversation to be able to write the interview accurately. I tried with my questions to get a plain explanation of the study, but it was in vain.

I was wondering what to do with the interview, because I really couldn’t see how to extract something of general interest of all that stuff. But I had to write something. I decided to write down our conversation and turned on the tape recorder, ready to spend hours transcribing a bunch of scientific jargon answers and try to make them understandable to my readers. When I hit the play button to reproduce the tape, I found in horror that all the interview was there, but backwards. It was something never happened to me before or after. I could hear our voices, but it was impossible to understand a word. It was like a dark spell.
I couldn’t trust my notes, and the doctor was not willing to repeat the interview, so it never was published no matter what the influential uncle would say.

Topic Generator

Posted in challenges, daily prompt

Uptight Sympathy

Sometimes we, reporters, have to do very unpleasant things. Once i had to interview a very sick man in the hospital. He had a throat cancer. He had been accused of a wrongdoing in a corruption scandal in my city but, the more I investigated the case, the more I become convinced that he was clearly a scapegoat. I had to get his version of the facts to clear his name. His family was uncooperative. They saw me as a vulture flapping around a dying man. But he was willing to tell his story, and he accepted my request. So I went to the hospital to talk with him. We needed the help of his wife to understand each other, because he had a tracheotomy and she was the only one who could understand the sounds he managed to emit. It was pretty hard. She was not happy with the task. I was uptight about asking difficult questions to that poor man in that situation and felt sympathy for the couple who were enduring so difficult time. But it was worth it. The interview made known the truth about the scandal that implicated several politicians and constructors, and the good name of that poor man was restored.

Topic Generator

Posted in challenges, daily prompt

Perfect Shoe

Run!, Run!. She didn’t think twice. They had just heard the sound of the launching of a missile and her guide knew it was aimed towards the place where they were standing.

A man in a nearby house called them: Over here! Over here! and showed them the entrance to a basement into a barn. He closed the entrance just when all exploded. They reached safety just for a second. She was lucky to have worn that day the perfect shoes to run really fast.

Down there, several families were sheltering from the bombing. They were sitting on the floor at the light of some candles, frightened. Women, children, men, elderly. A family in a corner was saying quietly the rosary. You could hear some sobbing. But mostly was reigning a deadly silence.

Those people were exhausted and frightened. They had to run to the basements every day. They looked at the newcomers, with their cameras and recorders, indifferently and sadly. Many reporters had visited before their village, taking pictures asking questions and promising they would tell their story, but nothing had changed. The journalists came and went, but the villagers had nowhere to go. their only option was stay there trying to survive.

When the bombing  stopped, the news team went out from the refuge and began to take pictures of the demolished house in front of which they had been just minutes before. In the middle of the street, a lone shoe lost by someone who had run like them in search of shelter was a reminder of how near of death they had been. A family was already in the damaged house trying to recover whatever had been left of their belongings.

The reporter climbed the ruins to see the destruction. She knew the language, so she talked with the family affected and their neighbours, to describe the whole episode better in her news report.

Later, before night, the team left the village and their frightened inhabitants. They had to continue their trip to complete their job, but it was not easy. Somehow, in their hearts, they wanted to know what would be the fate of those poor people who helped them in that critical moment of danger. Leave them behind was hard. It’s always hard.

Topic Generator

Saved by the Bell

Posted in Uncategorized

Hilarious Mistake

When I arrived to New York for the first time with almost no idea of English, I was like walking on a dream. The people rushing everywhere, street performers. Skyscrapers, Little and colourful flower shops. Executives, homeless. Claustrophobia on the subway at rush hour, Fresh air on quiet walks through Central Park. Art in the museums, filth in lost streets. Pedestrians, traffic.

Going out of home every day was an adventure full of surprises for my wide open eyes, eager of new sensations. I enjoyed the life in my new city. Every day a had a nice walk and some days I used to take the subway to go to the Rockefeller Centre to do a report about the Associated Press Agency. Very interesting. I even was invited to be present in their morning editors meeting with live connexions with the correspondents all around the world to talk about the news of the day. In just fifteen minutes, you could have a digest of the situation of the world and the main reports for the day. I have always been in the receiving end of the big news agencies and never had seen how they work inside. It was very instructive. When I was there, at their offices, working in my research, I used to pay a visit to St. Patrick Cathedral at lunch time, or take a walk on Fifth Ave.

I lived in lower Manhattan and I used to walk a lot around my apartment. Before I ventured to go to the Associated Press offices, when I was trying to put together my English, I had plenty of time to explore the city. I noticed that there were a lot of little shops to do the nails in my street. Something that in my country didn’t exist. Those shops also offered waxing legs. But with my poor English I understood “washing” instead of “waxing”. So I was really intrigued. Why would somebody want to go to a shop to wash her legs?. It had to be a very special legs bath, I thought. And offered in so many shops! It must have a lot of customers. I was really puzzled. So one day I was walking with a friend, and we saw one of these shops. Then I told her. I understand the nails business but I can’t understand why there are so many shops to wash legs. I think she is still laughing.

Topic Generator

Posted in challenges, daily prompt

Proud Paper

When I arrived at the newsroom in the morning, usually there were many people already working. But that particular day the room was almost empty. A lot of my colleagues were working out, in a building just a block away. A princess had come to preside the inauguration of a hospital. A big social event for our city. several journalists and photo reporters were there taking notes and pictures to fill several pages for the next day. I wasn’t among the chosen ones for the big news. So I was there guarding, just in case something else happened, knowing that whatever I would write, would remain hidden under tons of information about the social event of the day.

Suddenly, one of the photo reporters came hurriedly and entered the editor’s office without knocking the door. He told him something and the editor called me nervously and simply told me: Go with Xavier. He will explain.

I grabbed my pad and my recorder and followed him. We climbed in his car and he began to drive as fast as he could.

– I was in the ceremony with the princess, next to the Governor taking photos – he told me – and I overheard a secret policeman telling him that there has been a terrorist attack in a canyon near a village some 30 kilometres from here and it seems there is someone dead.

So there we went. We were the first ones on the scene. The police had a car with their radio very loud, so I could take notes of all the operation live. They didn’t let us pass into the canyon at first. It was too dangerous.

The terrorists were on the loose. They have killed one policeman and wounded another and fled running by the banks of the river. The police immediately had closed both exits of the canyon and had they trapped. Later they let us go into the canyon to take photos of the scene of the crime. The story was really terrible. The terrorists, four of them, decided to commit suicide rather than let themselves be caught.

I was deeply impressed because the policeman’s widow was my age: 28. I only could think about her, losing a husband so young, so suddenly, and so tragically.

My story made front page instead of the one about the princess and her inauguration ceremony, but I certainly would preferred a quiet day.

My newspaper was proud of me. I had done a good job. But I wasn’t feeling well. I was sad and angry.

 

 topicgenerator

Posted in daily prompt

I’m sad

When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something, but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should’ve said.

I’m sad today. This post is also sad.

Sometimes keep quiet is the best thing you can do. As a reporter, I had to protect the confidentiality of my sources. They had to feel safe with me. So I’d never repented to keep quiet when was needed.

Sometimes one doesn’t know if it’s time to talk or to remain silent. I had a very good friend with a strong temperament. We had an argument. Suddenly she fell ill and in two days she was in the ICU in critical condition. My sister worked at the hospital and they allowed me to visit her at the ICU. She was unconscious, but I noticed that when I talked to her, she reacted. It seemed that she was fighting against the respirator, trying to communicate. It was anguishing. So I said: Shh, quiet, quiet… till she calmed. I didn’t dare to say a word after that.  That night, she died. I never told her that I didn’t mean to argue with her, that she was my best friend, that I was praying for her. I was really sad. Later I understood that it didn’t matter. I did what my heart told me. And she probably knows now what my feelings were then.

Break the Silence.

Posted in daily prompt

Terrible

Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

curricula024

Here Am I during the Balkans War in Mostar in front of a destroyed building after a bombing by the Serbian forces. What can I add? it’s all said by the image behind me. I was there as a journalist reporting about the war and the work of the Spanish blue helmets deployed in the area. The besieged city was a pile of ruins. The public parks had been turned in cemeteries. People was suffering a lot . I remember that the Spanish defence Minister came to visit the troops and took a walk through the streets. There were some kids without coats running around, right next to a park full of graves. The minister called them to give them some candies, and this way, have a photo-op with them. Pathetic. Some bystanders were warning to the kids: “don’t take the candies. He only wants the picture”. But the kids didn’t listen. Of course, the photo reporters were busy with other images of the destroyed city but the minister’s PR staff was working hard. I was In Bosnia those days, so I didn’t see it, but they told me that a newspaper close to the Government in Spain published the picture of the minister and the kids.
I’m sorry I brought this horrible picture, but it was the first one I found in which I appear. All my pictures are terrible. I have to find the box of my childhood pictures in search for something nice.

Snapshot Stories.

Posted in daily prompt

Fear

Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

It was not properly a conversation, but an exchange between a terrorist and a policeman who had just caught him. I was there with my photographer as a young reporter, following a police operation against a terrorist cell in my city many years ago. We were at the hiding place of the terrorists. My photographer and I the only ones not related with the investigation. They were interrogating the arrested about how to open a small steel armoured door that they had found during the search, concealed below a sink. The officers suspected – and they were right – that behind that door there was a room, where the terrorists were keeping a huge arsenal with weapons, and explosives, and lots of documents about potential targets.
Basically what I heard was how the arrested began to say that he had nothing to do with that place, to finish talking about exactly how many people were using the hiding place, and admitting to know how to open the mysterious door. In fact was he who opened it, using a secret mechanism. Several policemen disappeared through the small door while others stayed with the terrorist and us in the main room.
The place was narrow and dark. There was too much people inside. So we ended waiting to see what would happen next, close to the arrested and the policeman who was guarding him. Then was when that man, who only minutes before seemed desperate, began to threaten us, till the policeman ordered him to shut up.
Soon after I decided I had enough of the terrorist and his threats and menacing stares, and crawled to go through the small door to the secret room. I found myself in a place full of automatic weapons, rocket launchers, rockets, explosives and clock bombs already prepared. We saw pictures of potential victims that had been followed by the cell, and a place ready to hide a kidnapped person. We stayed there till the search finished. Late at night we emerged from that dreadful place and went to the newsroom as fast as we could, to arrive in time for the deadline. My coworkers and the editor were waiting for us. I wrote fast and it was a great piece. I had been the only reporter in the police operation and only my photo reporter had the images.
The only problem was the fear because of the threat, and the fact that they called me as a witness against the terrorist cell during the trial two years after. I learned how irrational the fear is. That was a hard experience.

Hear No Evil.

Posted in daily prompt

Exploring my city

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

street3 4-2015

If I could travel I would go without a scheduled plan other than visit my family abroad and spend as much time as possible with them. Because of family circumstances, I can’t leave my city, even for a weekend. It’s been so long since I’ve traveled last time that I’m not sure I’ll know how to behave in an airport with the new security measures.

I used to travel all around the world, mostly because of my job as Journalist. I had to have a clear destination and a plan of action to find a good story. But once there, everything could change in matter of seconds. I had to be always ready to the unexpected,  be flexible. I learned a lot that way and best of all, got to know pretty well the people of the countries I visited. That was the richest part of the experience.

So when I travel, I avoid organised tours and scheduled plans. I prefer to explore by myself new places, at my pace. I guess a day will come when I’ll get the chance to travel again. Meanwhile I’m exploring my city. Everyday I take my backpack and my stroller walker and I try to go walking everywhere. There are nice places to visit. I often find in my way pilgrims who are in a stage of the Way of St. James or groups of tourists in a tour. You can see in the picture above one of its squares on the old quarter near my home, with the arches of the fortified church of St. Nicholas.

The Happy Wanderer.

Posted in daily prompt

A long night

Write 500 words on any topic you like. Now remove 250 of them without changing the essence of your post.

I’ve past a great deal of my professional life writing texts and adjusting them later to a specific length to fill a column, or a page in my newspaper. So I’m used to use mental scissors to remove words without changing the meaning of the article. It’s easier when you apply the rule to put the essence of your story at the beginning.

I had a boss very indecisive. I remember one evening, after a concert, when he told me that my story would go in half a page with a picture. So I wrote a long reportage with all sort of details about a cultural event, including a little interview with an orchestra conductor. Later, he told me there was no space and my story would go in one column , with a small picture of the conductor. So I had to cut my text to the essence. Finally he came back and told me he had found two columns free for my story, so I had to rewrite it and made it long enough.  For me it was easier to cut the text than to rewrite the story once deleted. I had to remember all the details, search again in my notes and so on. It was a very long night.

Slash and Burn.

Posted in daily prompt

Oh, if I could!

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

I don’t like to discuss politics even with people I know. I’m so fed up with politicians, their lies and their corruption, that I can’t stand a conversation about them. I don’t like to argue. So I prefer to stay silent and avoid or change the subject when it pops up. It’s not easy, because, people, as soon as they know that I’m a journalist, begin to request my opinion about the political situation. Of course, they already have their own ideas, and the risk of an argument is high. I have to be careful. The best way is answer with some piece of bare information. The curious people will probably be disappointed, but maybe I could change the topic of the conversation to another more pleasant for me.

Polite Company.

Posted in daily prompt

My father

Have you ever had a mentor? What was the greatest lesson you learned from him or her?

When I was looking for my first job as a journalist I avoided the newspaper in which my father was working as a columnist because I didn’t want any favouritism. So I went with my résumé to another newspaper knowing that I would leave my home and move to another city. It was worthwhile. I learned a lot those first years by myself. Nevertheless I consider that my dad was my best mentor in life and in my profession because he taught me everything I needed to survive, search for the truth and work with ethics. He was always available for me. He knew to listen. He understood my problems and knew when I needed an advice and when I only wanted to lean on his strong shoulder, or share my joys or worries with him. He never imposed anything. By listening to me and let me talk, he helped me find my way to do things. And all with his fine sense of humor, with an easy smile in his face and in his bright blue eyes.

Mentor Me.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Newspaper

Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item — an object, a symbol, a place — in each part.

A man was reading the newspaper while waiting at the door of the district attorney. I noticed he was reading my piece about a corruption scandal I was investigating. I was there hoping to find more information. I knew that the man with the newspaper was the police officer in charge of the investigation, but he didn’t know me. So I asked him casually: Is it true what it says the newspaper?. He said: Absolutely true. Everything. I wonder how they knew all this. I knew my sources were good. I’d checked and re checked every bit of data before publishing. I liked his reply. Then I introduced myself. That morning I got another valuable source.

The little office was cold and humid. I had a desk and a panel with a chart of the parking they were building right in the opposite side of the street. My job was to sell parking places. I was 19. I had found that job through a friend because I needed the money to live. I wanted to work for a newspaper and I was an intern in a newsroom in Bilbao, but they didn’t pay me enough. So I spent the mornings selling parking places to live and the evenings doing journalism. What I didn’t know was that the parking business would become pretty dangerous. I learned too late that my boss was involved in something suspicious. One day when I was alone at the office with the door open, two thugs came in looking for him. They threatened me and made me promise not to tell him they were around if he showed up. I was so scared I closed and locked the door as soon as they left. I didn’t care about what the customers would think. I didn’t  dare to venture out with those two characters around either. The boss came, I told him about the thugs and I quit right away. Well, as soon as I gathered enough courage to leave that awful place alone to go home.

As a reporter for everything in Pamplona, Spain, I had to write a lot about the San Fermin Festival. During eight consecutive years, my boss gave me the assignment of write about the wounded on the Running of the Bulls. So, when everybody was going towards the old city to watch the run, I drove in the opposite direction towards the hospital, to wait at the entrance of the ER the arrival of the ambulances with the wounded. Many traditional runners run with a rolled newspaper in their hand. With it, they measure the distance between them and the bull, and if it is too close, they can move it in front of the face of the bull to distract its attention and save precious seconds to escape. It was usual that when a wounded arrived in an ambulance, he still had his hand tightening hard the rolled newspaper.

 

Weaving the Threads.

Posted in daily prompt

Learning

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

My boss sent me to the city council to write a piece about a polemic session that was going to take place very late. It began at 8:00 pm. I was an intern. Very young. I think I was 17. I wanted to cause a good impression because my first day at job had been a complete disaster.

Back then almost a third of the city council was in hands of the radicals pro independence who supported the terrorist group ETA. They used to introduce motions asking for the Basque Country independence including Navarre. My newspaper had its headquarters in Bilbao and my deadline was 10:00 pm, earlier than the rest of the journalists.

When I arrived I saw that in the streets there were violent demonstrators and a lot of police. While we were in the session the situation in the street worsened. The police wouldn’t let me  leave the building because of the violence, so I began to get worried about my deadline.

I had to look for a phone and I found one in a small office next to an open window. The police was shooting rubber bullets that bounced everywhere. I took the phone and sat down on the floor under the table to talk with my boss. I dictated my piece about the city council session and the disturbs on the street with the sound of the shots and the screams in the background, while my colleagues remained at the council room. The news was in the street.

Around midnight the police allowed us to leave the building. Only one of the journalists had his car out of the perimeter formed by the burning barricades so we decide to go all together towards his car. When we were walking with the police behind us, suddenly a demonstrator appeared in front of us and screamed “Murderers!”. The police began to shoot towards him with us in the middle. We had to run looking for a safe place to escape the rubber bullets.

Fight or Flight.

 

Posted in daily prompt

Politicians

Think of something that truly repulses you. Hold that thought until your skin squirms. Now, write a glowing puff piece about its amazing merits.

When I was a young reporter my boss sent me one afternoon to cover a budget commission in the regional parliament with the instruction to stay there untill the end of the debate, no matter how long it would take.

The room had a big horseshoe-shaped table for the politicians from the different political parties, one squared table for the presidency in front and two smaller tables at the back for the journalists.

At the beginning the journalists tables were full. The politicians began debating item by item the budget with tense and nasty speeches, throwing accusations one to each other (we were in an electoral year) and dropping sentences to make headlines out of… nothing.

The matters under discussion were uninteresting and the session too long. There was nothing important to decide. Little by little the other journalists began to leave, pressed by their deadlines. But I had to stay till the end so I stayed alone.

Then, when I was almost dead of boredom while they continued with their endless debates and political skirmishes, one of the politicians situated just in front of me, looked at the tables of the journalists, saw them empty (he couldn’t see me) and said:

– Now that the journalists are gone we can vote the rest of the points without debate as we agreed.

All the efforts and signs by the president of the commission (who could see me taking notes) to warn that man that there was a journalist in the room were useless.

The most interesting sentence in for hours of debates was already recorded and written in my notepad. They tried to convince me not to mention that incident in my column but it was too late.

Why I wrote about that old anecdote? Maybe because I don’t like politicians, and this was a relatively naïf story about how they tried to play a double game and were discovered by chance.

 

Embrace the Ick.

 

Posted in daily prompt

Counting words

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” — Blaise Pascal
Where do you fall on the brevity/verbosity spectrum? 

As a journalist working for newspapers, I always have had to count words to write the news as concise and clear as possible, and at the same time to fit it in the space reserved on the page. So, brevity it’s already a habit.

Today with the digital media, this problem to fit a text in an enclosed space has disappeared, but the journalistic style of writing tends to the same rules. Be clear, concise, accurate. Say as much as possible with only the necessary words. Don’t confuse the reader with long disquisitions. The important stuff at the beginning: if the reader get tired and stops reading after a few sentences, at least knows about what goes the story

I don’t know if I have journalistic style in everything I write. I hope there is some diversity. But I know that journalism have left its mark on me.

 

 

Brevity Pulls.

Posted in daily prompt

Direct punch

When was the last time you were completely stumped by a question, a request, or a situation you found yourself in? How did you handle it?

As a reporter on courts, I spent many hours in the Court House waiting for news with different luck. Sometimes, after waiting for hours for a trial, there was no such a thing because the defence lawyers and the District Attorney had made a deal, or the judge had decided to suspend the hearing and postpone the trial because of the absence of some key witness, for instance, so there was almost nothing to write about.

One of those days I went to the Court House at 8 am for an important trial and it was postponed because a technicality. When my boss asked me in the afternoon about what happened I informed him there was little to write about the trial because it had been suspended. He was hoping for a long story and I only could offer a few lines.

Suddenly he asked me angrily so everybody could hear :

“Have you really been this morning in the Court House?”

As if I were making up an excuse to work less. he was accusing me to skip my job on purpose. His mistrust caught me off guard. He had no reason to doubt on me. I stood speechless for a moment. Then I told him :

“Where do you think I was at 8 am? Doing my job.”

I could call witnesses. My photographer could vouch for me.

Maybe it was only his frustration but for me it was not a curve ball, but a direct punch.

 

 

 

Curve Balls.

Posted in daily prompt

Confidentiality

Can you keep a secret? Have you ever — intentionally or not — spilled the beans (when you should’ve stayed quiet)?

 

Most of people would not tell secrets to a journalist knowing that his or her job is publish information he or she obtains. But for a journalist is crucial to know how to keep secrets when needed. To maintain the trust of the sources of information is the key importance to keep a secret, and there are journalists risking going to jail in their determination to protect  their sources. I have never been in that situation, but I had to keep secrets to build trust with my sources and sometimes to protect them. It’s the professional secrecy or confidentiality I observed carefully. 

 

Apart from those secrets, in quotidian life, I don’t like secrets. I prefer open truth. Sincerity, Confidence. Not boundaries. I prefer that people don’t tell me secrets, because they are a burden you can’t release or share. Despite so, if some friend confides me a secret can rest and be sure it’s safe with me. I won’t talk

 

 

 

Locked and Sealed.

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Posted in daily prompt

Work?

If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

Work now would be a blessing to me. I had to leave my job because of my lack of health. And it’s hard to get used to this new situation. But I have no other chance. That’s life. I miss badly my newsroom, my colleagues, going out  in search for news, the thrill of getting an exclusive or some breaking news. Now I have to watch the game from behind the barrier and I don’t like it at all.

What I don’t miss are the sleepless nights, the long hours of work without schedules, the disorder and the lack of free time to spend with my family and my friends.

If health were out of the equation as well as money, I would work again as a Journalist. But this time as a  freelancer. This way I would be able to control better how much time I want to devote to my work and how much to my family.

Miracles don’t happen so often, and I don’t think I’ll recover my health. So I guess I’m going to spend my time doing house chores, blogging when I can, and, above all, taking care of my ailing mom, a real privilege for me.

Work? Optional!.

Posted in daily prompt

Every day?

When was the last time you experienced writer’s block? What do you think brought it about — and how did you dig your way out of it?

Since I left my newspaper, I’m in a permanent writer’s block state. In the newsroom, always busy with the daily news and my multiple assignments, with a pressing deadline with no time to lose, there was no space for blocking.

Dealing constantly with the news and the strict facts can harm one’s imagination. I’m used to write about real facts in a way as objective as possible. If I don’t have any fresh news to tell, it’s difficult to me to write.

The Daily Prompt is a good help to keep alive this blog with new topics each day.

My father was a journalist and writer and he advised me to write every day something creative. Never stop practicing. I must admit that I have a worrisome lack of imagination and sensibility which makes me difficult the task. I usually begin my day with no idea of what to write about.

He kept a diary which is a true literary work. We discovered it when he died. Now I’m trying to translate it from Croatian and I’m learning a lot from him above all about life, but also about how to write. Lately I’m finding inspiration in his writings. Now I have an idea besides de blog and I need to find time to write.

 

Writer’s Block Party.

Posted in daily prompt

A walk

We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.

IMG_0341How can I tell the story of a person I don’t know? I’m a Journalist I’m used to stick to the facts. I can’t invent a story over real life persons. I would need to talk to them, to interview them to know about their stories before write about them. The contrary would go against my principles.

I only can deduce what I can see in my picture. A young couple with their first-born baby having a nice walk taking advantage of one of the firsts sunny days of this summer. They are passing by a big park in my city. Maybe they are already tired and are heading home. Who knows? The fact is that they are walking towards the old city of Pamplona where you can find a lot of little stores and boutiques and animation. The streets are narrow and shadowy, and the temperature fresher than here in the park’s gates.

They will pass by the Church of St. Laurent, where the image of St. Fermin, the city saint patron, is kept and venerated, one of the most typical spots of the city.

They will probably met several pilgrims walking in the opposite sense. This is one of the routes of the St. James Way or Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims coming from the France route who walked all the way from Roncesvaux to Pamplona and were visiting the gothic cathedral and the other gothic churches in the old city or who have stayed in one of the shelters, start their stage in this point from Pamplona to Puente la Reina to continue their march towards the distant Santiago.

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of a pilgrim or a group of pilgrims.

They are an important piece of our city landscape. It’s frequent to see them on the streets no matter if is summer or winter, with their peculiar attires, trying to speak Spanish to ask for directions when they get lost, always good-humoured.

Thousands pass every year. Spaniards and foreigners it’s really impressive.

Edge of the Frame.

Posted in challenges

Trip to Zagreb (II)

Earlier in the course, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something. For your twist, view day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.

Here is a link to the part I of this story

I can’t wait any more. There is no time left. The boarding time is approaching and I’m still waiting. I have my ticket with my reservation confirmed and I’m not going to be left behind. For the tenth time I go to the checking-in desk. It’s my last opportunity.

This time, the same JAT’s attendant that had rejected me nine times before, asks me now why am I so late! I can’t believe it. But I don’t have time to argue. I sigh in relief. At least I’m going to fly to Zagreb. I will be able to cover for my news agency and my newspaper the first free elections in Croatia and the political crisis in Yugoslavia.

I meet again my Spanish colleagues waiting to board the plane. We talk about our job. They are nervous because they don’t know the language and they’ll need a translator. I realise they know little about the country and the situation and less about the political parties and their leaders. I wonder how they would manage once there.

We board the plane. I’m surprised to see it’s almost empty. So the story about not enough seats for all the passengers that they told me when they sent me to the waiting list was a lie. My suspicions that I had difficulties because of my name arise again. But the important thing is that I’m on board.

During the flight they show us a propagandistic video about the wonders of Yugoslavia. Nothing about the crisis or the situations that are making news. The State is in a brink of a collapse. In the video all is idilic and wonderful.

I spend most of the time looking through the window. It’s my first trip to my homeland. I want to catch a first glimpse from the air. But it’s not my lucky day. It’s raining. I only can see grey clouds covering the landscape.

We land in Zagreb Airport. The border police officer take his time with my passport and begins to make questions about who am I, what am I going to do during my visit to the city, where will I stay, and so on. The other passengers pass quickly while I still answering questions. Finally, the officer seems satisfied and let me pass.

I go to pick up my bag. When I arrive all the luggages are already on the conveyor belt. I notice that my suitcase is not there.

Tom and Marko, my cousins, are waiting for me at the other side of a crystal wall. They are waving at me excited. We have recognised each other by photos. I’m trying to tell them by signs that I can’t go out because my luggage is lost. Tears fills my eyes. Not precisely because my lost bag. I’m deeply moved to meet my family for the first time. And now they are so close and still I can’t embrace them and speak with them because of that damn bag.

I go to reclaim my lost bag and after a lot of questions they tell me that it has gone to Belgrade with the plane.

Did they sent my bag intentionally to Belgrade? Did I lost something vital to my work in the process? How was my meeting with my family? Could I overcome the emotions and do my job?

 

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II.

 

Posted in challenges

Trip to Zagreb

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

1990. The first open elections in Croatia, part of the former Yugoslavia. I have been sent as a young reporter from Spain to cover the event because as a daughter of Croatians I know the language and the situation. I’m nervous. It’s my first trip to the Country. My father, a journalist too, is a dissident. He never got involved in politics but was prisoner both by the fascists and by the communists. The communists are still in power in Yugoslavia.

In my trip by bus from Pamplona to Madrid to catch a plane to Zagreb, they put the film “Missing” with Jack Lemmon. I’m not afraid, I’m realistic, but I’m certainly not in the mood for such a story.

Already in the Barajas airport of Madrid I go to check-in. Despite I’ve assured I have my reservation all right, the JAT company informs me that I don’t have a seat and I’ll be put in waiting list. I protest showing my ticket with the reservation but there is no use. I have to wait.

Meanwhile I see other people checking-in without problems. I meet two Spanish Journalists like me from a TV station. They pass whiteout problems. I begin to suspect The problem it is in my name. I approach the check-in desk and ask again about my ticket and my seat. The attendant tell me now that the ticket is all right but they had technical problems with their big plane and they only had a smaller plane so there is no room for all the passengers. So no room for me. I’m still in the waiting list.

I see how people continue checking in without problems and I get nervous and angry. I’m the only one waiting. The clock is ticking. The boarding time is approaching.

Am I going to be left behind? Is this happening because of my name? What about my reports?

To be continued in chapter two

 

 

Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer.

 

Posted in daily prompt

Not me

In 300 years, if you were to be named the patron saint of X, what would you like X to be? Places, activities, objects — all are fair game.

First one has to become a saint, which is not impossible but is not easy either. While I believe everybody can aspire privately to sainthood, I know that being recognised as such universally is another thing. Besides there are already patron saints for almost everything.

For instance, the patron saint of journalists is saint Francis of Sales, a French who was bishop in Switzerland in the XVI-XVII century. It seems that in a stage of his life when nobody listened to his sermons, he decided to make copies by hand and slipped them under the doors of the houses. He also wrote numerous letters and composed a book with them with advice for lay people about how to reach sanctity. He is patron saint of Journalists because of those writings.

I guess it would be great to have a modern journalist as a patron. A more present-day model. But for that we need a journalist saint and known for that. Not me. I’m sure there are more than one out there, unknown, and some day we will have a journalist as a patron.

 

A True Saint.

 

Posted in daily prompt

Questions

Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

curricula021

 

Here I am as a reporter trying to extract some declarations from the defense attorney representing a corrupt politician at the Court House during the investigation of a scandal that shocked my city years ago. The politicians involved had robbed a lot of public money and soon after this picture was taken three of them ended in jail. I had had published already a lot of stories about the investigation and was not very popular among the defendants. You can see by the picture that the lawyer was not very happy with my questions, which was a good sign for me. I didn’t obtain many elaborated answers but his silences were very eloquent. I made a good report that day.

Snapshot Stories.

 

Posted in daily prompt

I’ll decline

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

First, no Pulitzer winner will waste her precious time interviewing me, so I’m in no danger.

Second, if such a thing happened, the interviewer, being a seasoned journalist will come perfectly documented about my life, and since I have nothing to hide surely will know in advance more or less the answers she can obtain.  I’m a journalist and I know what a in depth interview is, how you get ready for it. When the interviewed accepts, he or she accepts the risk to face tricky questions about his or her life. 

I’m a private person so, Pulitzer or not, I’ll probably decline.

Just to play with the prompt I’ll propose three questions

Why have you been hospitalized lately?

Have you  recovered completely?

why don’t you drive?

As I said a good investigative journalist would know the answers on advance so it’s useless.

Trick Questions.

 

Posted in daily prompt

No techniques

Tell us your tried and true techniques for focusing when that deadline looms and you need to get work done. In other words, how do you avoid wasted days and wasted nights?

My entire profesional life has been a consecution of deadlines. Mainly daily deadlines. And I had to finish my job in a hurry in the middle of the noisy environment of a newsroom at night. I don’t know about techniques. I just did it every day under that pressure of the clock. usually the pressure was enough to focus on the writing.

Sometimes, when I desperately needed to isolate myself from the noise and I had all the data collected and a very clear idea of what I wanted to write I used to listen to music. through my earphones. Something calm, classic, known, that would not distract me. But usually I just worked as fast as I could to be on time. That was especially important when I had some exclusive news or last hour news to report about.

Being late was not an option. The newspaper had to wait for the news but the presses had to start at a specific hour. It was the old fight between the newsroom and the machine room.

One night I had an exclusive story about an illegal scheme in which were implicated policemen divided in two rival groups. I wrote as fast as I could. I was on the verge of the deadline. But I had to be careful with the data and I checked and rechecked until I was completely sure of what I was going to publish.

Next day I expected my bosses to be satisfied because it was an exclusive and it was good, but to my surprise they only were worried because my story had delayed 10 minutes the start of the presses. A lot of money depends on being on time. Instead of talking about the story and how to follow it, I was lectured about the need of don’t surpass the deadlines. My fault.

via Daily Prompt: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.
Links to posts by other bloggers on the next page:

Journalism

How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between?

I was enthusiastic about my job. Journalism is a wonderful, demanding and absorbing job. It gave me unforgettable experiences. It marked deeply my life. I’ve shared great sufferings and big joys. I’ve known all kind of people. Common people. Heroes and villains. I’ve known places in peace and in war. I’ve learned a lot about human kind. I’ve tried to don’t be cynical despite what I have seen during my career. I believe there is a space for hope in this world, despite its horrors.

Daily Prompt: Sixteen Tons.

Posted in bad luck, daily prompt

No money

If you’re like most of us, you need to earn money by working for a living. Describe your ultimate job. If you’re in your dream job, tell us all about it — what is it that you love? What fulfills you? If you’re not in your dream job, describe for us what your ultimate job would be.

Today I met my old coworkers. They were in a demonstration to protest because the company wants to cut them their salary to a half (the wonders of the crisis). I went to support them. Because of my health problems I can’t work any more. I had to quit a year ago. Now my friends are in the brink of a colapse. It’s so sad. Money for nothing? There is no money. Period.

I’ve worked in all kind of jobs during my life. We were immigrants. My father was a University teacher. No much money at home. As so many people, I had to work when I was a student. I worked as a maid, as a telephonist, as a shop clerk, as a music teacher, as an office clerk… I can’t remember all the things I did to earn money to help at home before I finally began my career as a journalist. I’m not demanding. So what would be my ultimate job? Nowadays probably whatever they would offer me in a solvent company that would be fair with its workers.

I liked my job. I’m so sad I had to quit because of my health. Working in a newsroom is stressful but very interesting. I miss my coworkers. I miss the excitement of coming with breaking news, the rush of the deadlines. I miss hitting the streets to report about whatever I had assigned. I miss spending time investigating some interesting news.
And all this although being a journalist wasn’t my first choice. My dream as a kid was to become a marine biologist. I adore the Ocean and the nature and its living beings. So the perspective of spend my life sailing and studying marine creatures was the best I could imagine. But I studied journalism instead and I don’t regret it. I’ve had a very interesting life. I’ve witnessed historical facts. I’ve known wonderful people. I’ve interviewed very interesting people. I’ve traveled. What else can I ask for?

Daily Prompt: Money for Nothing.
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Posted in commitment, daily prompt

The best policy

Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?

Lies, even good intended ones, can be a source of a lot of confusion and suffering. At the end the truth prevails anyway. Is better to be always honest. No matter the consequences. My Mom had to endure prison and persecution because she was honest telling that she believed in God and insisting in going openly to the church in a communist regime. She told us that, that way, at the end, everybody respected her because of her coherence. It was hard but worth it, she said. She taught us to be always honest and tell the truth.

When I was young they said I was too sensitive. Once I had to pass a very important exam and I was studying hard. My older sister was pregnant, and the day before I had to take the exam, she had her baby, but after a few hours the baby died. They decided not to tell me about it that night and wait after the exam, afraid of my reaction. But I found out about what happened in the library. A common friend told me. And that was far more traumatic for me. From that day I told them never ever do that to me again. I want the truth immediately always. No matter how hard it is. And that works nicely in my family.

Every time I have been in situations when people tried to “camouflage” the truth the result was a lot of confusion misunderstanding, anger, distrust. Honesty is not always easy but is the only way to understand each other and to build trust.

In my work as a journalist honesty is basic. If you’re honest you can build trust among your sources and your readers. And most importantly you can do your job: tell the truth about what’s going on and you’re reporting about. Maybe without honesty you can find a faster way to success, but it would be a temporary and unjust success, not worth it.

Daily Prompt: Truth or Dare.
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Posted in bad luck, daily prompt

The debate

Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?

A pacifist association organised a panel with a debate about terrorism and media. They called me to talk representing my newspaper. I was a simple writer so I asked why me. They told me they had asked others before me and they declined. I asked my boss why. He told me it was too polemic. There had been some attacks against our offices recently. I said I thought we had to go because all the other media were sending a representative to the panel of speakers. Our absence would be noticed. The he told me: “go if you want under your own responsibility”. “But, I said, I’m  going representing our newspaper”. He said OK.

So I went alone and I found, as my boss predicted, a hostile audience. Only ten friendly faces and all the rest against me. I said what I thought about the terrorism and the media, and mentioned the recent attacks against our offices and other media offices. They boo me, called me fascist, and things like that. I had some tense exchanges of questions and answers with some of them. I talked against violence. I stressed the point that is better solve things talking than fighting. But they didn’t listen. All the debate focused on me and my newspaper. Exhausting.

The room had two doors to exit. In one of them my opponents were gathering. My friends told me to use the other door to avoid them. But I thought it would be worst. So I went directly to the door where all of them were, told them very politely – “Good evening, thank you for coming” – and passed through them in my way out. They said nothing.

Daily Prompt: Sink or Swim.
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Posted in bad luck, daily prompt

Scary

You have a secret superpower: the ability to appear and disappear at will. When and where will you use this new superpower? Tell us a story.

A superpower again? I find very difficult to imagine a superpower working on me.

The other’s ability to appear and disappear scares me:

Once I made a report about a trial. The defendant was a very dangerous and violent criminal. He intimidated some key witnesses and at the end, despite the prosecutor’s efforts, was found not guilty and set free. He left our city. A year after the trial I had to go to the Court House to talk to some of my sources for another report and to attend another trial and suddenly I saw him. He was back in town. He was right there smiling menacingly at me. I knew he was not precisely happy with my reports.

I finished my interview and there he was waiting. His searching eyes and his scary smile glued on me. I went to a Court Room to attend a trial and there he was behind me. Watching me. The trial finished and he followed me outside the room. Always six feet behind me watching and smiling. Saying nothing. I was talking with my colleagues from other media as we were exiting the building and he continued behind us. Watching. Smiling. When I had to left my colleagues and go to a nearby parking lot I decided to face him. I said aloud: “someone is following us” and turned around to ask him what he wanted. And he suddenly disappeared! Nobody suspicious behind us. The others thought I was crazy.

Then I get really scared. Not knowing where he was, having to go alone to the parking lot I didn’t know what to do. By the time I reached my car I have looked every minute behind me out of fear to see him appear again being alone with no one to help me around. I locked de car’s doors and drove looking constantly at the rear view mirror. When I arrived to the newsroom I called to his lawyer to ask her why he was in town. She said “no idea” and she sounded more scared than me. He had his ways to let us know he was following us. Finally my boss advised me to call the police for protection.

Daily Prompt: Now You See Me.
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Posted in bad luck, daily prompt

No secrets

Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

I don’t listen to other people private conversations. I’m a private person and I try to do to others as I would have them do to me. Besides I’m too absentminded to pay attention.

I heard a lot of noises from my neighbours. I remember when I was living in an apartment on top of a busy coffee bar. As a journalist I used to work late and arrive home after midnight. But the people at the coffee bar arrived at 5 am each morning when I was fast asleep and used to turn on the radio very loud to listen the same news I was working on the night before. What a nightmare! I try to negotiate with them but was no use. No matter how late I worked, the wake up called at 5 am with the news. Of course I looked for a new apartment.

I only remember once I overheard a conversation between two of my bosses talking about one of my coworkers, because the door was open and I was waiting outside the office. I immediately made a noise to signal my presence. They called me in for my meeting making no reference to the previous conversation. But that was the exception.

I usually have had the opposite problem. People keeping secrets from me or unwanted people knowing too much about me, all related with my job.

It happened a long time ago and then was very hard to me but I don’t care any more. I was covering a political corruption scandal as a Journalist in my city. High profile. I followed and investigated the news for a year. A lot of stress. Obstacles in the way. All the politician, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, knew me. And then, when the case was going to go to trial I fell sick with a severe depression and I had to left. Disappear from the scene. So all of them got the news that I had depression. I got confused, afraid, ashamed. At that moment I hadn’t accepted my illness. I couldn’t stand so many people knowing about it. It was so public, so embarrassing I thought I would never be back again facing them. Fortunately I was wrong. With time and treatment I learned to accept my illness, I got better and went back to work.

Daily Prompt: Hear No Evil.
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Posted in daily prompt, good luck

Molotov cocktail

Tell us about a bullet you’re glad you dodged — when something awful almost happened, but didn’t.

The police had detained some known supporters of a terrorist group. I was reporting about that in the street where it happened. Suddenly more supporters appeared with their faces covered throwing stones and molotov cocktails to the police and journalists. I was in the middle of the street battle.  Trying to find a safe place. Scared. I hate violence. Everything was happening fast. In a given moment I found myself alone in the middle of the street. A young man appeared in front of me. His face covered. Brandishing a molotov cocktail and yelling at me:

– “You, coward!, I’ll throw it to you!, I’ll kill you!”

From the safety of a nearby house two of the leaders of the group I knew encouraged him:

– “Do it!” “To her!”, “She is a Journalist!” “A manipulator!”

I didn’t know what to do. I stayed still looking intently to his eyes, the only part of his face uncovered. I didn’t dare to move an inch. I didn’t want to provoke him. I thought that if I moved he would react throwing the bottle to me.

Then Xavier, my photographer arrived. He came from my back. Slowly walked around me until he was between the boy and me protecting me with his body. Began to get ready with his camera.

At that moment the boy turned and ran away.

Xavier told me:

– “Come with me slowly because I heard them talking that today they are going after you.”

He accompanied me to his car and then we left the dangerous area. He saved me that day.

Daily Prompt: Close Call.
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