Roger Cohen: My Life In Media

'I figured that if I could get someone to pay me to travel round the world and try to evoke it in words, that would suit me. And so it turned out'

Roger Cohen, 51, is the International Herald Tribune's editor-at-large and a contributor to The New York Times. A Londoner, he has spent the past 30 years globetrotting, working for Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times in Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, the Balkans and New York - where he took charge of the NYT's foreign desk the day the World Trade Centre was attacked in 2001. He has written three books - on Bosnia, the Gulf War commander "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf, and the Second World War - and has twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is married to the sculptor Frida Baranek and has four children, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I always loved writing and was always very curious about the world. I figured that if I could find a way to get someone to pay me to travel around the world and try to evoke it in words, that would suit me. And so it turned out.

When you were 15, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

The family newspaper was The Daily Telegraph, and having been a Chelsea fan since the age of six, I read the sports pages avidly. We also got The Times, which was of course different in those days. I read some of the political and general-interest sections but I was always more interested in the sports coverage than anything else.

What were your favourite TV and radio shows?

I don't remember watching a lot of TV as a teenager, other than The Forsyte Saga, but I did enjoy listening to sports on the radio and particularly to commentators like John Arlott on cricket for the BBC.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

Living in New York, I listen to NPR - national public radio - which has a very good morning news broadcast. Of course I read my own paper, The New York Times, as well as the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, and I read the BBC news online.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

Throughout the day, I tend to go to the news websites of the major news organisations, including nyt.com, iht.com, ft.com, the BBC home page and, from time to time, the Washington Post or Guardian sites.

What is the best thing about your job?

The freedom. The freedom to take on any subject I like for the column, and the latitude to express my feelings and thoughts about an immense range of subjects, from politics to culture and football. I like the interaction with my readers that comes from having a column. The exchanges are often stimulating.

And the worst?

If I had to pick one thing, it's being on the road a lot and away from my family. In many ways, journalism is a young person's game. When the phone goes in the middle of the night and you're 25 and you're asked to go to Beirut, it's the greatest thing. But when that happens at 50, less so. I also like writing longer-form magazine journalism and I get less opportunity to do that than I used to. Doing a column, though, I choose where I want to go. I can't complain about midnight calls from the desk.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

Covering the war in Bosnia and the subsequent book I wrote - Hearts Grown Brutal - about the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Living through a war in Europe was a harrowing experience in many ways, but I think that for everyone there of my pampered generation, it was also an education. In war, you see people pushed to their limits. To try to evoke that, to convey those experiences and so to impact government policy when governments are doing their best to ignore terrible things - that can be rewarding in more lasting ways than most journalism.

And your most embarrassing moment?

Arriving in India as the New York Times foreign editor without a visa. I had assumed that I didn't need one. It took our bureau chief there several hours to extricate me from Indian bureaucracy. I felt like an idiot.

At home, what do you tune into?

I watch The Charlie Rose Show on Channel 13 and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And movies from time to time, but I prefer reading to watching TV.

What is your Sunday paper, and do you have a favourite magazine?

The New York Times, of course and, as a magazine, The New Yorker.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?

A novel. I've started one about familiar themes: terror and love.

If you weren't in media, what would you do?

I'd run a restaurant or an inn in some lovely place, a setting for conversations.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

John Burns, chief Baghdad correspondent for the NYT and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. His courage and lucidity are remarkable.

The CV

1977 Leaves Oxford for Paris to teach English and write for Paris Metro magazine

1980 Sent by Reuters to Brussels for a one-year assignment, and never returns to live in London

1983 Joins The Wall Street Journal in Rome to cover the Italian economy, and is promptly sent to Beirut

1990 Recruited to The New York Times in Rio, sent to Paris a year later and then to the Balkans in 1994

2001 Takes on the job of running the NYT foreign desk - on the morning of September 11

2004 Starts writing Globalist, a twice-weekly column for the International Herald Tribune

2005 Publishes third book, Soldiers and Slaves, about the Second World War

2006 Appointed the International Herald Tribune's first editor-at-large

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice