Foreign Correspondent Training Course in Prague
PITTSBURGH — Back when my journalism career was essentially something that existed only in my imagination, there were two blogs I checked on an almost daily basis: Rolf Potts’ Vagablogging and Jen Leo’s Written Road. (Interestingly, both Rolf and Jen have become so busy with other work lately that they no longer even write their own blogs; they use a rotating cast of guest-bloggers instead. Those are two wonderful examples, I think, of bloggers who were tenacious and dedicated, and who ended up reaping valuable rewards as a result of all those long hours spent in front of their computers. Jen, for instance, now blogs about travel bargains for the L.A. Times, and I’m fairly certain that job came about as a direct result of the travel advice she so often dished out for Written Road.)
Anyway, it was maybe two or three years ago when I found a post on Jen’s blog about an annual 10-day training course for would-be freelance foreign correspondents. It was based in Prague, and put together by Transitions Online, a Czech news organization which, according to its website, covers “all of the region’s 28 post-communist countries”. As someone who has always wanted to attend J-School, but who probably never will because it costs too much, I thought this idea was fantastic. And while it’s true that I’ve been busying myself almost exclusively with travel journalism for the past year, my most important career goal has always been to become a traveling writer, as opposed to a travel writer. In other words, instead of being a journalist who goes to specific places and then writes about those places, I’ve always preferred the idea of being able to go anywhere, and to then write about anything. Which is essentially what a foreign correspondent does.
I doubt I even had the money to spare on the Prague course back when I first learned about it (it costs US$1,350, and then there’s the round-trip airfare), but I can still vaguely remember the disappointment I felt after scrolling through the organization’s website and discovering the class was reserved for university students or recent graduates only. I don’t remember why I didn’t send an email asking if they could make an exception. That seems like the sort of thing I would normally do. But at any rate, I forgot about the whole thing, and that was that.
And then a few weeks ago, just after I’d wrapped up my LP assignment in Thailand, the course popped back into my mind. Now that I think of it, I suppose it seems a little obsessive that I had been out of the country for nearly three months and was already thinking about my next opportunity to leave. But nonetheless, I hopped online because I couldn’t quite remember what time of year the class was scheduled to take place. As it happened, I was in luck: It was coming up in about a month, and this time around there were no age or education requirements. You simply had to fill out a form, write an essay about why you wanted to attend, and that was that.
My acceptance letter arrived via email in less than a week. I’ll be flying out of Pittsburgh International this Thursday.
Aside from maybe a dozen emails that have come from a Christian Science Monitor correspondent by the name of Michael Jordan, I really don’t know what all to expect. TOL tells us that aside from Jordan, we’ll be schooled by Rob Cameron, who covers the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the BBC ; Edward Lucas, an Economist editor who writes about Central and Eastern Europe; and Aernout van Lynden, a war correspondent who has covered the Middle East for the Washington Post, BBC Radio, The Observer, Sky TV, and who knews what else.
That’s quite a line-up, so I’m guessing that no matter what sort of information these four choose to impart, we’ll all be getting our money’s worth. After the course ends and before flying home, I’ll be spending roughly three days each in Berlin and Kiev, where I may even put some of my newly acquired knowledge to good use. More updates about this trip to come, so stay tuned. (The folks in the photo at the top of this post, by the way, are former graduates of the course.)