Two plays by Federico Garcia Lorca - Blood Wedding at the BU Theatre Studio 210 through October 13, and Yerma at SFA's Studio 104 through October 14

Vol. V No. 9   ·   
12 October 2001


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Veteran reporter Dick Gordon takes over as host of WBUR's The Connection

By Brian Fitzgerald

Five years ago, Dick Gordon was in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan, covering the factional fighting in the region as a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). When soldiers loyal to deposed Afghan President Burhannuddin Rabbani -- who controlled an air base north of the capital -- began shelling the city, Gordon knew that he might become a casualty of the conflict. Still, he got closer to the combat area.

  Dick Gordon
Photo courtesy of WBUR

"We went out to the front line to see whether one side or the other was making any progress," says Gordon, who officially took over as host of WBUR-FM's syndicated call-in show The Connection on October 1. "In retrospect, it was probably a dumb place to be. We could have gotten the same information closer to Kabul. We basically put ourselves right in harm's way."

Evidently he didn't learn his lesson. Later he found himself back in the middle of the action. "One morning we went to the front line to see if the Taliban forces had entrenched themselves further north, but they had been in a rather tenuous situation the night before," he says. "It still wasn't clear that they were going to hold onto Kabul. They were organizing buses to take the soldiers out in case they lost the city. We didn't see a front line, so we just kept on driving." They discovered that the Taliban soldiers had moved from one position to another -- and that they were now in the territory controlled by the former government forces. "We were being shelled by the Taliban, and we were wondering how the hell we were going to get back in the city," he says.

Such is the life of a war reporter: the rockets' red glare sometimes gets a little too close for comfort. Gordon has been in the vicinity of exploding shells more than once, "and very close to bullets that may or may not have been aimed at me -- not just in Afghanistan, but in Bosnia, Moscow, and other places," he says. "It's part of what you do as a foreign correspondent. What you learn over time is how close you can go -- and you need to get close -- without getting yourself into a situation where you become the news story instead of reporting on it. But in a very fluid situation it's hard to determine." It's difficult to know where to draw the line when the line keeps moving.

But Gordon has had plenty of practice: he's also covered conflicts in Kashmir, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, as well as unrest in South Africa, Mozambique, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East.

So what does a veteran of combat reporting do when callers begin sparring with Arab journalists on his first official day as host of The Connection? He steps into the breach and takes control. Screaming matches may make titillating fodder for some listeners, but the program certainly isn't The Jerry Springer Show's radio counterpart. "It's not theater," Gordon says. "It's trying to make some sense of a situation where there is already a whole lot of noise. As soon as things get to a point where people are speaking and not listening to one another, we're not doing much for people who are listening."
Gordon hosted The Connection in late June and early July, after longtime host Chris Lydon and producer Mary McGrath left the program in a dispute in March over WBUR's refusal to accept their demands for a financial stake in the show. In a much-publicized hunt for a new host (the Boston Globe called it "The Connection Derby"), Gordon had impressive credentials, having worked for the CBC since 1977 with assignments as a Parliamentary reporter, Moscow correspondent, and South Asia correspondent. He has been senior correspondent, backup host, and reporter for the CBC national current affairs radio show This Morning since 1997, has received two Gabriel Awards and two National Journalism Awards, and been nominated twice for the Actra Award for excellence in reporting.

Obviously used to thinking on his feet, he manned the mike at The Connection earlier than expected when he hosted several shows following the September 11 terrorist attacks. He says that he thinks of the program as a continuum, rather than separated into individual hours or even days -- especially after the traumatic attacks on America. "Sometimes what we're working on gets dropped or moved ahead in favor of breaking news," he says. In fact, a show entitled "Terrorism and the Transformation of America," was taped live at the Tsai Performance Center on October 9, and aired on Wednesday, October 10, at
10 a.m.

With his extensive overseas experience, Gordon expects to bring a unique perspective to the show. He's seen firsthand the effects of the Taliban's fanaticism, reporting on an orphanage in Kabul that was left almost unstaffed after the Islamic fundamentalists banned women from the workplace in 1996. "I was allowed to walk though dormitories that were full of morose, underfed children who were between 2 and 12 years old," he recalls. "The school was closed and the cafeteria was closed because they had been staffed by women."

Gordon is "intelligent, curious, and accessible, and brings a wealth of experience to the program," says Jay Kernis, National Public Radio's senior vice president for programming. "Dick Gordon and [senior producer] Graham Smith are professionals in every sense of the word," says WBUR General Manager Jane Christo, "dedicated to the highest standards of broadcast journalism and to serving the listener."


12 October 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations