by Luisa Anderson
Simon Romero is The New York Times bureau chief in Brazil, where he covers Latin America’s Southern Cone. Romero was first hired by the Times in 1999, and began working in his current position in 2011.
How long have you been reporting international news?
I’ve been reporting from abroad, off and on, since 1995 when I moved to Brazil as a freelancer. I was hired around that time as a correspondent for Bloomberg News, based in São Paulo.
Could you describe your current job and how you got there?
I’m currently the Brazil Bureau Chief for The New York Times. It’s been a fascinating route to get here. I started at Bloomberg, opening their bureaus in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, after a stint working in Sao Paulo. Then I went to a magazine published in Portuguese, AmericaEconomia, before being hired as a contract writer by The New York Times in 1999, based in Sao Paulo to largely cover economic issues. After doing that job for a year, I was taken on staff for the Times, working for the business section in New York for three years. Then I was posted to Houston in 2003 as a financial correspondent, focusing on the global energy industry. In 2006, I was named Caracas Bureau Chief, covering the Andean region, a job I did for five years before moving to Rio de Janeiro in 2011 in my current position.
How many stories do you work on each week?
I always have several stories in the pipeline at once, a mix of hard news, enterprise and light features. During any given week, I’m working on about four or five stories at once.
What are some challenges that you face as a journalist?
The biggest challenge, I think, is narrowing down subjects to write about. There are just so many fascinating stories to do in this part of the world. It’s hard to find the time to do these pieces and do them well.
What is your favorite part about your job?
This is a wonderful question. This varies from person to person, but my favorite part of my job is learning something new each day and being challenged in so many different ways. Much of being a foreign correspondent involves getting out of your comfort zone. It’s rare to have such a job. I often think that even if I were independently wealthy that I’d still want exactly the job that I have. I’m from a rural part of Northern New Mexico, and maybe because that a region that’s different from many others in the U.S., I’ve always been interested in exploring places near and far. For someone interested in different cultures and languages, working as a correspondent in one of the foreign bureaus of the Times is one of the most rewarding experiences I can imagine.
What is the journalism industry like in terms of international news? Do you think newspapers are struggling to cover international news?
It’s unfortunate, of course, but the news industry is in crisis. Many of our competitors have scaled back significantly their international coverage. At the Times, however, the foreign report is still viewed as an essential part of our journalistic mission. We’re very lucky in this sense.
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
My advise would be to jump on a plane and go to a country which fascinates you. Learn the language and have a go at freelancing or fixing. At the very least, you’ll have fun, and the experience could lead to something bigger in terms of your career
Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
The only thing I would add, perhaps, is a suggestion: never give up on journalism. The profession may be passing through a difficult phase but it’s still evolving. The use of new technologies, especially involving multimedia and social media, is expanding access to a global community of readers, viewers and listeners. I’ve always thought that people just want interesting stories. It’s in our nature to bare witness and relate what we see and hear, something we’ve been doing since the start of human history. Foreign correspondence, even as the profession evolves amid great challenges, is an incredible way to carry on this tradition.