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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Urgent Requirement - Central Manchester

£20000 - £23000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Guru Careers: Social Media Executive / SEO Executive

£20 - 25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Social Media...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions