Daily Archives: 3 February 2007

Coming soon: regular haircuts for John Burns

The news that the New York Times‘ Baghdad correspondent John F Burns will become the London bureau chief of the paper, means that the hairiest foreign correspondent on planet earth will no longer be.

Burns, a former correspondent of the paper based in New Delhi, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, always looks like this—desperately in need of a haircut.

But the 61-year-old, the oldest member of the Western press corps in Baghdad, has one of the cutest explanations for the way he looks.

“Why do I not go to the barber very often? Here’s why: 20 years ago, I went to have my hair cut in England. The woman cutting my hair said that her father, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, was killed in Germany. I said, ‘Oh, my father was in the RAF, too.’ We quickly discovered they were contemporaries.

“The following morning she came to my hotel room and said, ‘I want to show you a photograph.’ It was a picture of her mother and herself as a young child at the funeral of the pilot. My parents, my father was in uniform, were standing on either side of her. She said, ‘My mother said your parents were so kind that I wasn’t to charge you for the haircut.’

“I said, ‘I have got a better idea than that. Charge me for the haircut, but I will never have my hair cut anywhere else again other than by you.’ And I have not had my hair cut by any other person than that woman in 20 years, and I am not very often in England.”

With Burns moving to London after mid-summer, the most famous crown in journalism may yet be headed for a more regular snip (picture courtesy: University of Delaware, anecdote courtesy: New York Observer).


How to feed your creativity

In the latest issue of PR Tactics, the journal of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Jack Hart, managing editor and writing coach of The Oregonian discusses the craft of writing, and answers the key issue that stumps most “working” journalists: writer’s block.

Sometimes day-to-day work gets away from innovative thinking. Are there things that people can do to feed their creativity?

Read something new and different every day, for one thing. We all get stuck in ruts. We have things like YouTube now. Or drive down a different road, talk to a stranger or just do things to get out of your rut. Tickle some new neurons.

Then sit down and write something about it. A daybook is a good idea for a lot of people, which is just a journal where you’re jotting down thoughts about things that happen to you day by day.