Thursday, October 08, 2009

Don Ray Archives: Managua 1985

We were pretty much locked in at the Nicaragua Press Building -- a former hospital, I believe -- on the day before the inauguration of newly elected President Daniel Ortega.

This wasn't the recent inauguration of Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega -- this was 1985. A young journalist accompanied me on a series of freelance print and radio assignments in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

My reporting partner, John Bilotta, was my former student. He had recently accepted an entry-level job with United Press International.

When whoever was scheduled to cover the inauguration couldn't make it to Managua, John's boss asked him if he had ever reported for the radio. He hadn't, he told them, but his traveling partner had. That's how we ended up in the press building -- prisoners of sorts -- along with dozens and dozens of other media folks from around the world.

Someone introduced me to the guy in the photo who was pausing to refresh himself. It was Abbie Hoffman, one of the so-called Chicago Seven who had disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

We had an interesting chat. What I remember the most is the newspaper clipping service he was using. As you may know, many public persons and organizations hire news clipping services to scour every newspaper and magazine in search of stories that reference their clients.

"I have the best clipping service in the world," Hoffman told me with a smile. "Once a month I send a Freedom of Information Act request the FBI. I request all of the newspaper stories about me that they've collected.

"It doesn't cost me a penny," he said.

In a future blog posting, I'll tell you the story of my amazing adventure the following day. It involves a pre-dawn, wrong-number call to our room, being held at gunpoint and then ending up in the most unlikely place.

I even have photos.
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