Last evening, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Betsy Hiel spent an hour at Point Park University speaking to a group of our students.
Hiel is the paper's Cairo-based Middle East correspondent, and she and photojournalist Justin Merriman recently spent several weeks in Pakistan covering the political, religious and social situation in the country. Here is a link to her series of reports and photos by Merriman.
You'll notice in those special reports that Hiel and Merriman made a real attempt at practicing convergence. Learning that craft, regardless of whether one is a broadcast or print reporter, "is a challenge for all of us," Hiel said.
She noted that on a couple of occasions either she or Merriman were aware of the dangers they faced while in Pakistan. Their fears, she said, were not based on a sense that they personally were the targets of anyone; instead they were aware that the volatility within the country could have led to them become innocent victims of some kind of attack. Hiel later told the students that no reporter can place the possibility of dying in the front of their minds; doing so will prevent them from getting their jobs done. "If you think like that, you should get out (of the business)," she said. Merriman added that it was a surreal feeling to know that they were at times in places where one group of people would be happy to see them but another group of people would have welcomed the opportunity to kill them.
Hiel has been stationed in Cairo since 2000, when she became the newspaper's Middle East correspondent. She told the students of the importance of working hard, catching a few breaks, paying your dues and always being ready for that phone to ring.
Merriman said much the same thing. He said something that really resonated with me: A camera is "a passport to anything you want to do." Merriman has been to India and Pakistan in the past three years (and kudos by the way to the Trib for its commitment to these and other international projects). He told the sizable number of photography and photojournalism majors in attendance that he shot 14,000 pictures while in Pakistan, but there was only one that he really liked. Yes, that makes him a perfectionist, but it also makes him a really good photojournalist.
Be sure to check out that link I highlighted above. It's a fascinating series of reports and does much to educate us about the country, its people, and its relationship with the United States.