Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Foreign Correspondents: The Art of Guessing

When they arrived in Phnom Penh they discovered that there had been a revolution in Thailand. As Times correspondent, Robert was desperate. He read the French newspapers in Phnom Penh, translated the article on the revolution, rewrote it and cabled it to London. As the story was going out he remebered that the French correspondent in Bangkok was a friend of ours and totally unreliable –given to wild exaggeration and catastrophic conclusions.
"Did you cancel the cable?" I asked fearfully.
"No," said Robert, "but I added a shaky postscript: PLEASE CHECK."

Thus do the headlines in Southeast Asia originate. Formerly I had a touching faith in the veracity of our better newspapers, now I read everything from that dim area with tongue in cheek. The respectable format of the London and New York Times impresses me no longer. Behind the authoritative columns I have my memories of the wild and bewildered correspondents in the mad countires in which no Westerner knows or understands what is really happening. Robert spoke fluent Thai and knows more abot Thailand than anyone I ever met out there, but in times of stress the Thai were not given to conversation and most of Robert's stories were educated guesses.

Carol Hollinger
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

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