Person of interest: David Greene, National Public Radio host
December 16, 2012 5:00 AM
By Maria Sciullo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh native David Greene requires no sleep, which is helpful in his relatively new job as NPR morning programming host and correspondent. As a child in Shadyside, he attended the University of Pittsburgh's Falk School through fifth grade, then the family moved to Murray, Ky. in 1986.
But it was long enough for the Steelers to imprint on Mr. Greene, who went on to earn a degree in government from Harvard University.
He follows the Black & Gold from points across the globe. Considering his two-year stint as foreign correspondent in Moscow, as well as posting in Tripoli during the NATO bombings, he is no casual fan.
Mr. Greene also spent four years covering the White House for NPR and had a similar beat during his seven years with the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Among his memorable NPR journeys: a trip on the Trans-Siberian railroad and a 100-day drive across America during Barack Obama's first months of office.
For his Arab Spring reporting, he won the 2011 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize (named for the late NPR senior news analyst who died in 2010), which aims to salute a new generation of public radio journalists 35 years and under.
In responding to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's request to be featured as a "Person of Interest," Mr. Greene said he was "honored." Twice. This possibly makes him the most awesome subject ever.
World affairs aside, let's get to the really important issue: What are the Steelers going to do now?
Repeat 2005! I was AT the frigid Cincy game on 12/4 that year. Team lost third in a row and was left for dead. I returned to work Monday morning, deeply depressed. An NPR colleague -- the late Gary Smith, a fellow Steelers fanatic -- told me to pick my head up. "David," he said, "they're gonna win the final four games, slip into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl." I told Gary he was crazy. Turns out he was right. This season is far from over.
I see from your Twitter musings that, apparently, it's never too early to wake up and watch a game in Moscow. Now that you're stateside, it must be very odd indeed to enjoy the NFL as the rest of us do.
YES. Back to watching with beer and wings instead of coffee and little Russian pastries.
Is there such a drink as the Moscow Mule in Russia? Or would they just call it a Mule?
Mule drinks of any kind are hard to find in Moscow. People there prefer straight beer or straight vodka -- using mixers in drinks means curious glares (and no ice!).
You've been all over the world for your work. What would you judge the best/worst/most dangerous experiences in the field?
Reporting from Tripoli as NATO bombs began falling was exhilarating, frightening and oppressive. We were invited onto Gadhafi's compound the night of a NATO bombing run -- In retrospect, were we human shields? Anytime we interviewed a Libyan, we wondered if he or she would be punished by security forces for talking to us. We were largely trapped in a hotel, unable to travel around without government minders. I was only there for a few weeks. It really made me appreciate the sacrifices of my colleagues who live in war zones and report there for months or years at a time.
It takes a certain amount of fortitude to live the life of a foreign correspondent. Were you an adrenaline junkie as a kid?
Oh, yes. Also in college ... and beyond. My friends say they don't understand why I require no sleep. Even on vacations, I'm too wired to sleep if there is more fun to be had. I was once in New Orleans with a friend. We were up until 4 a.m. and I proposed skipping sleep and heading out on a sunrise bayou cruise. He nodded OK, even as his head dropped into a plate of beignets and he fell asleep. I still feel guilty today.
Was there any sort of internal clock resetting when you accepted the "Morning Edition" job? What do you believe you bring to the show as a host that is perhaps new or unexpected?
The alarm clock was definitely reset! Hosting means waking up at 2:45 a.m. Seriously, I was just so honored to join two hosts -- Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne -- and an entire staff that has been producing such a wonderful show. I come into a studio curious, eager to give listeners the feeling that they are sitting in the next chair, experiencing everything alongside me. Steve and Renee were already striving for that -- so joining the team felt natural.
With print media closing international desks, what direction should it take to preserve a balanced worldview?
The same approach it has always taken, even in such challenging times. Readers want and deserve to go on a journey when they pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio -- a journey informing them about city politics, and telling them why the conflict in Congo is important ... a journey that satisfies their curiosity and fuels their imagination ... a journey that tells them stories that are fair, balanced and fascinating ... a journey that helps them sleep better at night because they know journalists are keeping power in check. Even as the media landscape changes and resources dwindle, the responsibilities remain unchanged.
You worked as a bartender while writing for the Baltimore Sun. What's up with that?
Among the best decisions I ever made. I was spending four or five nights a week hanging with friends at a dingy pool hall called Kokopoolis. The owner asked two of us if we wanted to split a Sunday night bar shift. He didn't have to ask twice. You would think working at a pool hall would have improved my pool skills. It didn't.
After riding the Trans-Siberian railway, Amtrak seems ...
... to be missing something on the menu -- borscht! Amtrak also seems boring. Too many people in their own worlds, reading newspapers, listening to iPods ... on the Trans-Siberian, passengers share stories and meals and become friends.
And finally, are you familiar with the tumblr site: http://nprheygirl.tumblr.com/? If you could make your own meme (and playing the part of Ryan Gosling), what would it be?