MANILA, Philippines — Jim Clancy in person is exactly what he’s like on-air.
He is thoughtful. He is articulate. And he exudes an air of confidence that is learned and hardened only through years of experience — 30 with CNN to be exact.
As an international correspondent for CNN, Clancy has reported from nearly every corner of the globe, covering events that have shaped history: the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the genocide in Rwanda, and the fall of Saddam Hussein, to name a few.
On a recent week-long trip to the Philippines, Clancy led workshops for young journalists, and fielded questions from company executives during a private event on Thursday, March 15.
Cheerful and charming, Clancy shared his thoughts on a range of topics including journalism, the death of Marie Colvin and the state of North Korea.
Here are excerpts from the Q&A session:
On starting off as a journalist
I got into journalism in college, and then right after college, and it was just something that I’ve always loved. I got into journalism right before Watergate when journalism became really popular and a lot of people started studying it. But when I got into it no one wanted to be a journalist. I actually went to this radio station on campus and I said, “I’m here. I’m ready to be a disc jockey!” And they said, “Well…you’re a junior, and you’re never going to make it up to the list to become a disk jockey unless you work in the news department. And then we’ll bump you up in the list.” I got into the news department and I never got out.
On Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony
I follow Kony, I’ve never interviewed him — few people have. I don’t know how Kony has just managed to survive this long. The Ugandan army is fairly good. And I don’t know what it is that is protecting him.
The whole region is in turmoil ever since the genocide in Rwanda. It’s only beginning to calm down. Kony is one of the last worst warlords in the world today. He claims to be Christiian but of course he’s anything but. We all know that.
The International Criminal Court has started to hold accountable people for war crimes like in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he hides sometimes. But Kony’s got to be caught. He’s got to be taken down. The horrific things he does. The way he kidnaps children… if they drop their guns, they could be executed. The invention of small lightweight arms was the invention of child soldiers. The case of Kony really underscores that.
Read more about Kony here.
On North Korea
Once again, we’ve gone into a deal where we’re going to give him food and he’s going to put a pause in his nuclear weapons program. But we’ve done this before and it’s like, you know, a bad rerun, that’s been going on and on and on. And it’s not really solving the problem for Asia. He’s playing everybody for regime preservation.
I don’t think the United States, the Asean countries, anyone but China can really pull the plug. But remember it’s not 2.2 million people there, it’s 22. And the reality is when they pull the plug on him, you’ve got all of these people that have not been in contact with the outside world. How are you going to reintegrate them? How are you going to reunite the two Koreas?
I think people are afraid of it. I think China’s afraid that you’re going to have millions of people pour across the border looking for jobs, looking for work. If that government collapses, it’s going to introduce more instability and I think some of the powers in the region feel that it’s better to leave it as [it is].
On Marie Colvin
Very dear friend of mine. I knew Marie when she first started covering the Middle East with the Sunday Times. And we covered [Yasser] Arafat together. I spent many, many hours with her covering various stories. And you know, it almost brought me to tears when I was recounting you know… I always look forward to seeing her on any story.
She was a really dedicated journalist, she was somebody that stuck with it. One night we were at Arafat’s office waiting for an interview and he had just come back into Gaza and there were maybe a hundred journalists who gathered. The journalists all wanted the interview. So we all stayed. Then after 4 hours there were only about 20 journalists, and after about 6 hours there was only Marie and myself. I probably wouldn’t have stayed except Marie was staying and I wasn’t going to let her get an exclusive! So we ended up staying 8 hours because Arafat is a maniac, he works all night long! I think we got the interview at 4am… But that was Marie.
And I was sad. I recounted that story the other day on CNN when she was killed, and I almost cried. Just because she’s not going to be here anymore. Wonderful person with a wonderful sense of humor and an absolutely fierce journalist.
On human trafficking and the CNN Freedom Project
Our world has changed. Some things have gotten better, some things have gotten a lot worse. One of the things I think that has surprised me over the years is that the problem of human trafficking has actually gotten worse. I worked a little bit with the United Nations and now CNN has the Freedom Project, trying to shine a light on all of this.
And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Because if you are trafficking in humans you can get a commodity, use it, profit from it, and when you’re done with it, sell it to the next person that’s going to use it whether it’s for work, whether it’s for prostitution, whatever it is. CNN’s Freedom Project is trying to shine a light on all of that.
We’re going to be doing a special on the Philippines and the efforts that are being done here by an NGO. I haven’t seen it yet but I understand that Manny Pacquiao is going to be one of the people featured in that. He’s active in it. Trying to change some of the laws. I know a lot of you are thinking, oh no, another report that will make us look bad, but actually — you have to address the problem. You have to get people in the Philippines to be aware of it, to protect their own children. It’s an important story and I’m really proud of CNN for getting involved in this. Because it has made a difference.
On the future of journalism
It’s headed to the web. Television is headed to the web. The Internet’s going to rule. There’s some things I like about where things are going, there are some thing I don’t like. I think that bloggers… it’s not news, they’re not generating news, they’re just talking about the news.
I think that the tendency of the media to rely on ‘What’s trending on Twitter? We’ll cover that!,’ or ‘What’s popular on Facebook? We’ll cover that!’ — well you’re supposed to be leading the conversation, aren’t you? If you’re journalists, you should be telling people what they need to know, not just trying to harvest topics to make money. Journalism isn’t about making money, journalism is about telling stories. And setting things right. Giving that voice to the voiceless.
So you know, some things about the way it’s going concern me. But I have a lot of confidence after meeting some of these young people during this week, they’re going to carry it. They’re going to solve these challenges and confront those kind of challenges and they’re going to tell a lot of good stories. Doesn’t really matter if it’s on the Internet, by satellite, if it’s over terrestrial channels. I think all of that will co-exist for a long time but we’re going to be seeing much more content being pumped out through Internet connections. The plugs are already on the television set.
Advice for aspiring journalists
Advice? Passion. Persistence. You just have to go after it, you have to go after your dream. But you have to love the news. You know I told some young journalists this week, I was saying, “If you take care of the news, I promise, it will take care of you.” Don’t worry about the office politics, don’t worry about you know, which company am I going to be with? Is he getting more airtime than I’m getting? Just focus on the stories. Tell those stories. If you do that, you’ll succeed. – Rappler.com
Read more about Jim Clancy here.
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