Back in the day, when The Bee participated in a visiting journalist program, I had the pleasure of engaging a half dozen journalists from afar.
Germany, France, Poland, China, Mexico and Hungary. Some came for less than a month and others stayed for nearly a year; several bed and boarded in the homes of then Bee staffers such as Bobbye Temple, Jim Bort, Gail Marshall and others.
The thrust of the program was to introduce foreign journalists to the workings of the American press.
Yes, they worked alongside staff reporters, mucking around in the trenches of hard news. They saw crime, ag, education and everything fit to print. Some needed help with their English and writing. The staff reached out to them big time. And I hauled most of them to the Sierra.
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Since our daughter had been a Rotary Exchange student in Germany – thanks to Lew Eaton – we felt that we should return some of the hospitality. With our kids had having flown the coup we had room to spare.
Piotr Jankowski, a Polish journalist had lived through the Russian occupation of his home town of Opole. During our return visit in 1992, Jankowski and his wife Eva insisted that we take over their bedroom, decorated in red, white and blue, stars and strips. Around Opole, he showed us the jail where he had spent a year for his reporting.
The Russian KBG had taken over the same dingy jail that the Gestapo had used in World War II. Authoritarian governments despise a free press.
Then, a German reporter from Munster, Germany, was here to write on Fresno, one of the town’s Sister City and on the national parks. He was here but for two weeks. So don’t ask me his name, I can’t remember. What I do remember is sitting out on our patio in a summer evenings drinking beer – to his amazement. We solved a couple of international issues.
At Munster, he said, the weather afforded no such comparable opportunities.
Loa Herr worked for the China Daily and stayed in Fresno several months, bouncing around from place to place – but not mine. He liked Asian food – even if it was not Chinese.
Kim’s Restaurant on Maroa was one of his favorites. I took him over to the International Institute on Waterman Avenue and to Yosemite, of course.
Heimer Gyorgy –just call him George – was with HVK, Hungary’s leading business journal. At the end of his seven month Fresno stay, he insisted that we come to Budapest.
On our visit, he showed us Budapest and more –including the spot where the Hungarian freedom fighters had fought Russian tanks and died. After our tour of Lake Balaton and a cruise along the Danube, he held a reception at his Budapest home.
Wow, what a time.
Twenty-six-year-old Michel Henry of the prestigious French newspaper Liberation had paid his his hard news dues by serving as Liberation’s African bureau, residing in Dakar, Sengal. He did not like my college French so we did English. At six-feet- six, he was a tall drink of water and also tall in talent, an outstanding writer with flawless English.
For eight months, he was our adopted son. On weekends, we hauled him around the state, feeding his passion for old, shoot-em- up, western movies.
At The Bee, he was teamed up with reporter Alex Pulaski and ended up covering the jail beat – a harsh introduction to the American way of life. Henry was a fine reporter. All he lacked was a big city wardrobe; blue jeans were his only trousers.
But on one assignment, he was dispatched to cover the transfer of Fresno jailbirds to a Stockton correction facility. He would ride along with the felons – where he could wear anything but blue jeans.
He asked our assistance, and my wife scurried around and finally located some tall, tan trousers that would fit his beanpole frame. He was off on the jailhouse bus, mission accomplished.
Abroad, my wife and I have been hosted at their distant homes and been treated with great hospitality. Thanks to the internet and the airlines, I have been able to maintain contact with three of these now old friends. All were journalists in the finest tradition, dedicated to giving the reader the best information they could find.
Accuracy and credibility were their byword – a universal language than transcended language and borders. As journalists, they felt they had a professional responsibility to truth.
Today’s sad vernacular of fake news or alternate news would be something very foreign to them.
Unfortunately, these now older friends now share another commonality. None are full-time, working journalists. All would eventually leave print journalism.
Jankowski is working for his wife, making jewelry. Henry came back to Fresno two years ago to report on the California drought. Since then, he was bought out. Today, both Henry and Heimer are freelancing. Downsizing is a word that needs little translation. For journalists it is always “bad news.”
Gene Rose of Oakland is a retired Bee reporter who covered the region's national parks for decades. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.