Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The professor to blame...

Brian Patrick O’Donoghue

Geez. Still can't believe it myself, but the mirror doesn't lie. I'm 53.

Where does time go?

My career has taken me from photo shoots atop the Great Pyramid to interviewing oilfield workers in 70-below conditions on the Arctic ice pack, pulling 7Gs in the cockpit of a soaring F-16, eying Prince William Sound from a supertanker’s wheelhouse, mushing dog teams in both the Iditarod andYukon Quest International—

Bringing readers on these and other rides typifies my 30-year career as a photojournalist, reporter, editor and author.

Fresh out of school, I followed an old newsman’s advice—“find someplace miserable and newsworthy”—and broke into the business as a photo stringer for United Press International in Cairo. That summer of ’79 found me shooting a Sadat-Begin summit, Egyptian-Israeli peace talks, the return of Al ‘Arish, and other events before my dad's stroke, at the age of 48, yanked me home to D.C.

True story: My mother later showed around my Egypt photos to relatives in Minnesota. Studying the above portrait of Anwar Sadat, one clueless relative observed, "Oh, how your husband must have suffered before he died." My mom didn't have it in her to explain.

Weighing life’s curves, I shipped out as a Seafarers International Union wiper aboard an India-bound cargo ship.

Back on “the beach,” I branched into writing for City Paper in Baltimore and D.C, before moving on to The Villager in New York. From 1983-85, I juggled graduate school and night shifts in a cab, while reporting on squatters, police drug crackdowns and the Purple Man’s fight to preserve his urban “Garden of Eden.”

In 1986, a job listing in Editor and Publisher sent me to the Frontiersman in Wasilla, Alaska. I've since worked for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Daily News, KTVF and KTVA-TV, covering four gubernatorial campaigns, a decade of military exercises, the Exxon Valdez spill, seven sessions of the Legislature and thousands of miles of dog races.

Honest Dogs, Epicenter Press, 1999, and My Lead Dog Was a Lesbian, Random House, 1996, recount my “Red Lantern” misadventures in the Quest and Iditarod, respectively.

What the hell, I've finished every race I've started.

In fall 2001, I bolted from writing editorials and joined the faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Among other things, I teach news-writing, investigative reporting and an online publication class producing Extreme Alaska. I received tenure this spring. As of July, I serve as Journalism Department Chair.

I'm past president of the Alaska Press Club and a dedicated member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. As an undergraduate, I first studied history at Holy Cross College, ultimately earning a B.A. from University of California, Santa Cruz. My ticket to teach on the university level comes through a M.A. in broadcast journalism from New York University.

My wife, UA Public Affairs Director Kate Ripley, and I have three kids: Rory, 13, Robin, 11 and Rachel, 5.

Somehow it adds up.

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