Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” has spent time in Sarajevo, Kosovo, New York City, Afghanistan — and in a tutu. At a Calhoun College Master’s Tea Tuesday, he shared stories from his time both on location and on the ballet stage.
Before an audience of about 40 students and local residents, Simon reflected on his experiences in broadcast journalism, focusing on the time he spent in Sarajevo. He described broadcasting as his way of reaching people and expressing his views, and he referred to his career in journalism as a privilege.
“You go all over the world and are invited into people’s lives,” Simon said.
Discussing his time covering war in Sarajevo and Kosovo, Simon said he tried to use his work on the radio to expose Americans to the devastation in the area.
“Sarajevo was rich in culture, much like Chicago and New York,” Simon said. “But, unfortunately it was torn apart.”
Simon said he was critical of the minimal response of Western nations to the war in Kosovo.
“We pledged not to allow another Holocaust, when in fact we permitted another to happen,” Simon said. “We were unwilling to leave our comfort to sacrifice for the people there.”
Simon said he has some unfinished business regarding Sarajevo.
“The American public never comprehended the level of crime,” Simon said.
With that in mind, Simon is writing his next book, a novel set in Sarajevo. He also has written two books, “Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan” and “Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball,” the latter of which was published this fall.
In his third book, Simon said he hopes to both expose the horrors he witnessed and to depict inspiring memories.
Simon remembered staying in Sarajevo with a local family whose young teenage daughter was impressively poised despite her dire situation.
“I was flabbergasted by their generosity. They were people for whom you could not do a favor without it being returned. They’re wonderful, wonderful people,” Simon said of his hosts in Sarajevo.
Simon, who joined NPR in 1977, also described his experiences covering the Persian Gulf War, one of eight armed conflicts he has covered.
While covering the Gulf War for NPR, Simon, a longtime sports fan, said he would get up in the middle of the night seeking solace in playing sports.
Sports, Simon said, “allow you to lift yourself out of your life for a couple hours.”
But Simon’s interests go beyond the playing field. An avid ballet dancer, Simon will appear in “The Nutcracker” with the Austin Ballet this December. He said he received the call asking him to perform the day before leaving on assignment for Afghanistan.
“The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is being redesigned to suit my special talents,” Simon said. “I’m not worried about wearing a tutu. I’m a big Dennis Rodman fan.”
Simon said that he loves his job at NPR.
“I wouldn’t be in radio journalism if it weren’t for NPR,” Simon said. “You see very little personality in news reporting, but NPR is one of few exceptions.”
Students at the talk said they agreed.
“NPR is — warm and thoughtful,” Emily Kopley ’06 said. “I was eager to see someone speak about it who possesses similar characteristics.”