When United Nations news correspondent Linda Fasulo’s cell phone rang for the second time during her presentation at a Calhoun Master’s tea Friday, she had just one explanation for her audience of 20 students and faculty.
“This is one of the travails of a journalist,” she said. “Breaking news!”
Fasulo’s ringing cell phone indicated the purpose of her visit — to discuss her career as a foreign correspondent. Fasulo spent an hour introducing herself and fielding questions about her views on journalism, the United Nations and international diplomacy.
Fasulo is the U.N. correspondent for NBC News, MSNBC and U.S. News and World Report. Her news reports also air regularly on National Public Radio.
Fasulo began the talk with a statement that took some of her listeners by surprise.
“I owe my career in journalism to Saddam Hussein,” Fasulo said.
She went on to condemn Hussein, but said she and other journalists seized the opportunity to write a multitude of stories relating to his character and actions.
Fasulo began covering the United Nations in the 1980s for a local radio station, but because of a lack of general interest in the United Nations, her stories rarely aired.
But on Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.N. Security Council backed United States sanctions against Hussein’s regime. To the average American, goings-on at the United Nations suddenly became relevant, Fasulo said, and so did her news stories.
She said the most exciting era in her career occurred fairly recently. It was February 2003, when the United States was considering another war against Iraq.
“The United Nations [headquarters] was a three-ring circus,” Fasulo said. “I’d never experienced anything like it, and I’d been there for the first war … The splits, the animosity, the heat — it was palpable.”
Despite the excitement of the time, Fasulo said, it was also “horrible” as a correspondent. Security barriers went up, and usually accessible diplomats suddenly became off-limits to the press. The journalists had to be ready to work 24 hours a day, she said.
Recently, Fasulo said, life at the headquarters has been much calmer.
“We can be very hopeful,” she said. “[International] relations are on the mend.”
Still, she said, terrorism continues to pose challenges to the United Nations.
Fasulo spoke briefly about the bombing of the U.N. building in Baghdad on Aug. 19. She said it had disillusioned U.N. staff workers.
“They think they work on the side of the angels,” she said. “So of course, they wonder how they could be attacked like that.”
She also spoke briefly about what she called the necessity of objective journalism, the United Nations’ caution in dealing with the Middle East, and the increasingly negative comments she said she has received during her career as American journalist working abroad.
Some students said they enjoyed the talk, but said it was fairly predictable.
“I liked it,” Mehmet Tezgul ’07 said. “But nothing surprised me that she said.”
Jeohn Favors ’05 helped to organize Fasulo’s visit to Yale. Favors said he was pleased with the talk.
“She’s a very interesting lady,” he said. “We generally try to get ambassadors to talk about the [United Nations] this week, but as a journalist, she can see the [organization] in a different way.”
In addition to her journalistic commitments, Fasulo recently wrote a book entitled “An Insider’s Guide to the U.N.”