Meet The Host: Frank James

Frank James. Photo: Coburn Dukehart, NPR.
Photo: Coburn Dukehart/NPR

Like many journalists, I've been fortunate to witness history large and small and to have people open their everyday lives to me.

I stood yards away from Nelson Mandela in Cape Town when he emerged from the parliament building with his white predecessor, part of the ceremony that marked his becoming South Africa's first black president.

I've watched a neurosurgeon snip a tumor from a patient's brain, working through a small hole in the skull like an an ice fisherman going after a sturgeon.

I accompanied a hardworking, grieving single mother as we both looked down on her only child on a funeral-home gurney, a baby-faced teen shot in the back by fellow gang member, an instance of urban friendly fire.

I held my breath in the back of a racing Chicago police cruiser as it joined the chase of a motorcyclist who must've thought doing more than 100 mph on city streets would help him escape. It might've if he hadn't lost control.

I sat in Alan Greenspan's office when he was revered as the Federal Reserve Chair and got the Maestro's take on the economy. That was before the economy spun out and wrecked, just like that motorcyclist, with Greenspan catching a lot of blame for contributing to the excesses.

I shouted, respectfully of course, in a U.S. Capitol corridor to catch the attention of a young senator to discuss immigration-reform. It seemed a stretch then to think he would become president in less than two years. He did, proving that the improbable sometimes happens.

You get the picture. In my years as a journalist, first at The Wall Street Journal, later at the Chicago Tribune I, like so many other newspaper reporters of my vintage, have had a glorious ride filled with interesting people, places and stories.

Lately, I've witnessed first hand a personally wrenching story as the Internet, along with a weak economy, hastened the decline of the newspaper business, with many fine journalists, including friends, being forced into other lines of work, or unemployment.

But the Internet which taketh away also giveth. Three years ago while still at the Tribune, I created The Swamp, a successful politics and policy blog. It was an exciting time, building a brand new Web community while at the same time having a small part in the newspaper industry's transition to the digital era.

Now, the Internet gives again. As part of NPR News, an organization of which I've long been a fan which is also truly a national treasure, I have another chance to be present at the creation of a new journalistic blog, The Two-Way.

Mark Memmott, my blogging partner, and I will be serving up the news of the day, adding, we hope, useful context and analysis in a way that meets the high journalistic standards set by the network's mainstay shows Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Along the way, we'll be helped by NPR's many talented journalists both here and abroad.

We also hope to create a new community for NPR fans and those new to the network to discuss the stories, trends and interesting people or ideas in and beyond the headlines. And we plan on giving the occasional peek behind the scenes here at NPR. And we plan on having fun.

So The Two-Way is born. Let the blogging begin.

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