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The Pulitzer Prize Winner From Next Door
An interview with IHT reporter Choe Sang-hun at the OhmyNews school
Oh Eun-byul (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2008-01-27 12:34 (KST)   
The following is an edited article from the first OhmyNews English News Camp, held at our Ganghwa Island school, Jan. 12-13. Twenty-one students, aged 13-18 took part in learning the ABCs of news writing, and interviewing IHT reporter Choe Sang-hun. More articles will be published on OhmyNews International after our second camp in February.  <Editor's Note>
It was at OhmyNews English writing camp that I met Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter Mr. Choe Sang-hun. Despite being an important man, Mr. Choe's personality was so friendly that he seemed to me like a next door neighbor. He spoke to us about his life as a reporter and about what it takes to be a good writer.

When Mr. Choe graduated from university, he told us, he didn't know what he should do with his life. Influenced by a friend, he applied for a job at the Korea Herald. As he worked more and more, he found himself enjoying the life of a journalist.

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It was a challenge to write articles in English for Mr. Choe. This was part of why he liked the job, however. "Challenging also means exciting," he told us.

After working at the Korea Herald for some time, Mr. Choe felt he needed a change. Fortunately he soon got a call from the Associated Press about a job, and decided it was time to make a move. Working for the AP, Mr. Choe was able to write about anything in the entire country, so he never got bored of topics. This could be quite challenging too, however, as it was difficult to get in-depth knowledge of any specific genre.

After eleven years at the AP, Mr. Choe decided he wanted another change. As the AP was a news wire, he had to write articles about several topics each day. Mr. Choe wanted the opportunity to write about particular topics more deeply. He decided to move on to the New York Times, where he had the freedom to decide what topics to write about and how to write the story.

After telling us about his life as a journalist, Mr. Choe gave us some thoughts about how to be a good writer.

First of all, he said that there is a close relationship between being a good writer and being a good reporter. He emphasized that it is impossible to be a good reporter without being a good writer. He also told us that a good writer must be both creative and a brilliant observer.

Second, he said that you have to be a good reader to be a good reporter. Reading many books and finding out how sentences work are crucial elements of being a good reader and reporter.

Finally, he told us that practicing is the most important strategy in becoming a good writer. "You learn it by failing. You have to practice. Write and write and write and try to revise and revise and revise," he said.

This was Mr. Choe's final lesson to us.

At the OhmyNews school, covered with snow, 30 students in a classroom were absorbed by Mr. Choe's story. When he finished, they started to type on their snow-white monitors, each stepping forward toward the dream of becoming a journalist.
Oh Eun-byul is a middle school girl from Seoul.
©2008 OhmyNews

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