The ’90s were a decade that saw several civil wars, scientific leaps such as the first cloning, and the death of Princess Diana – and former CNN Correspondent Siobhan Darrow witnessed all these events firsthand.
Darrow will give a free lecture tonight at 8 in Corwin Pavilion on her new book, “Flirting With Danger: Confessions of a Reluctant War Reporter.” She started her journalism career at NBC News where she became a translator for the news crew in Moscow. She was then hired to cover the Goodwill Games for Turner Broadcasting in 1986. A few months later, she started working for CNN and quickly moved up the ranks from tape logger to producer, and finally to international correspondent.
“I got into journalism because I love Russia and I wanted to share my love for Russia with the American public,” she said.
As an international reporter, she covered most of the major geopolitical events of the 1990s, including the collapse of the Soviet Union. For Darrow, this experience was extraordinary because she witnessed the evolution of Russia into a freer society.
“When this happened there was a tremendous desire for Russia to open themselves up to the world, especially to journalists,” she said. “There was lots of pain because the Russian people felt displaced.”
Darrow became a war reporter after bearing witness to this collapse.
“As I was covering the break up of the Soviet Union there was a lot of bloodshed,” she said. “Civil war broke out in [the Russian State of] Georgia and I was sent there where they were fighting. It was my first experience of a war zone.”
She later went on to cover civil wars in Chechnya, the Balkans, Albania, Israel and Northern Ireland. The experiences were terrifying because she had direct access to the front lines. Based on her experiences, Darrow said most civil wars stemmed form the same issues: two sides fighting for the same land without wanting to negotiate. She said she does not believe civil war solves any problems.
“It was terrifying to be out there so I always had mixed feelings,” she said. “I was drawn to it, but I didn’t always want to be there.”
As an international journalist, Darrow said she had to give up her personal life to be a reporter. She also felt that television reporting was confining because network executives don’t think Americans are interested in stories covering international news. This led her to quit her job at CNN and eventually write her memoir.
“I felt like I never had time to make sense of things,” she said. “I wanted to know my own story. It wasn’t until I started writing the book that I knew what led me there and what it was all about.”
In her lecture, Darrow will read excerpts from her book. She wants to focus on the idea that all people bring an aspect of themselves into a story no matter how objective they intend to be.
“Being a journalist is about loving stories and talking to people. One of the challenges is to talk to as many people as you can because they all have different stories,” she said. “Journalism is instinctual. You learn from experiences and how to talk about them, and you have to learn how to do it yourself.”