A good ride

Posted: July 5, 2022 by chrisharper in media

By Christopher Harper

After working for nearly 50 years, I finally retired last week.

It was a good ride for much of my working life.

I stumbled into journalism at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, which I attended mainly because my high school girlfriend went there.

In relatively short order, I dumped the girlfriend and my accounting major, choosing journalism because cool kids in my graduating class in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, worked for the high school newspaper.

I got a chance to cover events, such as the ill-fated presidential campaign of George McGovern and the American Indian Movement takeover in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, catapulting me into various exciting jobs.

While attending Northwestern University, I started at The Associated Press, where I wrote about economics, including the downturn of Playboy’s hold on American men and the fifth anniversary of the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

With a helpful hand from a Northwestern professor, I got a job at Newsweek, which allowed me to ramble throughout the Midwest, covering labor and some local politics. I even got to profile Minnesota Twin Rod Carew as he almost succeeded in hitting .400 one year.

Nevertheless, I had an overwhelming desire to work in Washington, D.C., where I had spent a semester reporting for two small newspapers in South Carolina and Tennessee during the days of Watergate.

But I found Washington wanting—a boring place of people who thought too much of themselves.

During my two-year stay there, however, I got a chance to report on one of the most intriguing stories of the 20th century: the death of more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana. I was one of a handful of reporters who surveyed the scene of bloated bodies killed in a ritual of suicide and murder.

When I complained to my boss at Newsweek that I wanted to get out of Washington, he only half jested that Beirut was open. My wife Elizabeth and I headed off to the Mideast for a fascinating frontline look at the history of deceit and death there.

An unwilling war correspondent, I managed to cover three significant Middle East confrontations: the Lebanese civil war, the 1982 Israeli-Palestinian war, and the Iraq-Iran war.

When I discovered that the Beirut reporter for ABC News made more than two times what I did at Newsweek, I switched to television. My talents in front of the camera were far inferior to my abilities as a producer/reporter, where I lasted for 15 years in Cairo, Rome, and New York.

Along the way, I had a front-row seat at history, meeting several presidents, many influential individuals, and myriad common folk who made a difference in our world.

I jumped into academia at the end of my journalistic line, mainly because the news business had changed into a profit-making enterprise.

Although the time wasn’t as exciting, I taught several thousand students how to write—a once-needed skill that has fallen on hard times.

I also managed to travel throughout the world, holding teaching assignments in China, England, Italy, Poland, and Russia.

Now I’ll focus on the next phase of life, where I have several legal cases to analyze as an expert witness, three dogs to walk every day, a weekly trip to the Catholic Church as a lector, and this column to write.

I think I’ll still have some good times ahead!

  1. Matthew H Iskra says:

    Congratulations! Now you can work FULL time, for the most terrible of bosses – yourself.

  2. Pod Hamp says:

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  3. Kathleen Mallory says:

    Congratulations Chris!!! A long distinguished, fascinating and meaningful career, indeed! Now you can join the ranks of the rest of us who don’t have enough time to do all the things we want + ought to do! 😅 Much love + happiest of wishes to both you + Elizabeth + looking forward to seeing you soon! Kathy Mallory

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