Esteemed journalist H.D.S. Greenway shared his experience as a foreign correspondent and spoke on the influence of social media on international journalism at last night’s annual Christiane Amanpour Lecture.

Greenway has been reporting from the most dangerous places in the world for over 50 years.  In 1958, while in the Navy,  he was was ordered by his boss to  make a small Newspaper, but, “it was not as good as the Five Cent Cigar,” he said.

After writing his first story,the executive officer expressed that  his story read like a political science textbook instead of a news story. Since then, he has worked for great publications like the Boston Globe, Washington Post and Time as well as written a memoir titled, Foreign Correspondent. In his book, Greenway shares moments of his time as a war reporter and his observation of America’s interference in foreign governments. Greenway is also responsible for creating Bureau’s from the Boston Globe in London, Tokyo, Canada, Moscow, Latin america and Jerusalem.

Throughout his career Greenway has reported on the killings in Khmer Rouge, genocides in the Balkans and covered the Gulf wars and the civil wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His experiences taught him that every place abides by different rules,  “You learn tricks to help you stay alive,” Greenway said.

Credit: Donald Reuker/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Credit: Donald Reuker/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

When entering a village in Cambodia it was a good sign for children to gather around you, “if the children were not gathering around you, then you had to get out of their because it probably meant the kidnappers were not far away,” he said. In Baghdad,  Greenway made it his personal rule not to  conduct interviews in the persons home for longer than 30 minutes, “ I figured half an hour was about the time it would take for a neighbor to call the kidnappers and let them know that there was an European in the area,” he said.

Fully aware of the risks he would encounter in each of the countries he visited, Greenway was determine to be the eyes and ears of the people in those dangerous situations. “A good story is irresistible,” he said, “dangerous assignments would become an addiction.”  His most dangerous assignment was Baghdad in 2005.

“The kidnappings were so prominent that people were afraid to go outside, journalists only went out with body Guards,” Greenway said. Unlike Freelance journalists, foreign correspondents in specific publications received defensive support from their agencies.

Journalism today has changed drastically. Social media has allowed journalists to reach a lot more people. Earlier in Greenway’s career, even getting the stories to his publisher was complicated. In war zones, journalists often sent footage to other journalists in other places through soldiers, this was risky because the soldier could decide not to deliver the footage. Before sending of their stories journalists also had to go to the censors, “ The computer has effectively ended censorship,” Greenway said, “ but in a war zone, self censorship is necessary in making sure you are not publishing information that would aid the enemy.”

As a successful foreign correspondent Greenway has had many honorable moments. he was awarded a bronze star for rescuing a marine and although other journalists believe he should not have intervened, Greenway still believes it was the right decision.

Along with his admirable moments there were decisions Greenwood had to make that he is not as proud of, “We were being fired at and the commander said that anyone who could pick up a weapon should fire it or we would not make it out alive and i picked one up,” he said, “ I still believe that maybe i should not have picked up the weapon.”

Greenway left aspiring journalists with the advice to own the basic journalism skills.