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Intern Profile

By Joe Bernard

This month we are going to profile not one of our producers, but two of our current interns, Gavin McCann and Chris Fisher.

Gavin and Chris both come to us from England and both heard of RFPI through friends with connections to the station.

Chris was born in Leeds in the north of England and moved around frequently, his father being a public servant with British Waterways. Settling in London, he attended primary and secondary school before returning to Leeds to attend university where he majored in English Literature and Language. While there, he joined the OTC (Officers Training Corps), an organization in place "to educate students about the Army and what it is there for," without pressing students into service, says Chris. "You'd go away weekends and build bridges over rivers, and blow up cars and things like that. It was hours of harmless fun!"

Gavin moved around Britain as well. But he settled in Sheffield twelve years ago, later attending university in Bradford. It was there he "began to realize what was going on around [him]." He took an active interest in politics with his coursework opening an interest in the movement toward European integration. This remains a strong interest for Gavin who hopes to work in that field in the future.

Gavin learned about RFPI through a family friend who was actively involved in the United Nations Association of Great Britain. Instead of going straight on to a job after graduation from university, he decided to take some time off "to really do something rather than go from school to university to a job for the rest of my life."

Chris came to RFPI after learning of us through the late Brigadier General Michael Harbottle, a member of RFPI's International Advisory Board. In accordance with his interest in journalism, he was offered a choice between a radio station in Czechoslovakia during the winter or one in Costa Rica in the summer. He chose the obvious! The fact that RFPI was working for world peace just sweetened his interest.

How is life in Costa Rica? "It's interesting," laughs Chris. "The heat is incredible. Nothing could have prepared me for it. I knew it was going to be hot, but I had no idea it would be this hot all the time. But I'm settling down- I've lost two layers of skin so far (and three noses) and I will be tan by the time I go back, I'm sure!" Another thing that impresses Chris about Costa Rica is the friendliness of it's people. "I've not found yet anyone who's not been helpful, friendly. Very, very friendly people." Gavin adds, "They don't seem to be bothered if you can't grasp Spanish...they don't mind repeating five or six times! I think that's what struck me more than anything." And the bugs, Gavin?? "I'm not really getting along very well with the bugs! In Britain, everything seems to be a lot smaller. There's nothing in Britain that can harm you. The spiders here are BIGGER, the bugs are BIGGER, everything BIGGER!" Gavin tells the story of walking in the woods one day and realizing a six-inch bug had attached itself to his shirtback. "I ended up taking my shirt off and running around in circles whacking my shirt until I finally got it off. I've never seen anything that big!" Turned out to be a praying mantis arguably one of Natures scariest insects.

Turning to the subject of his overall experience at RFPI, Gavin says he feels that as a result of working at RFPI, he's better informed and sees a broader picture than before. "I've always felt my knowledge has been incomplete. Hearing stuff about Che Guevara, The School of Assassins [School of the Americas], Cassini- I'm just left astounded, really astounded by the things that go on that I've never known about."

Since arriving at RFPI, Gavin has learned to "do the Board," produce Dr. Manning Marable's commentaries, Along the Color Line, and take over as producer of the Tropical Conservation Newsbureau Report.

Chris' responsibilities at RFPI include Board operator, production of The Tico Times Report, and in the future the production of some RFPI Reports. Also planned are research projects and reports on the activities of militaries around the world.

What are some of Chris' favorite RFPI programs? "I do like a lot of the media criticism [programs]. It interests me a great deal how the media can manipulate words to mean different things, manipulate statistics to mean what they want, or what the people behind them want." He adds, "It's incredible that people won't actually pick up on this. That people are for whatever reason unable or unwilling to read between the lines. For that reason I think programming like CounterSpin which is one of my favorite programs is extremely valuable.

So what's next for these two talented and bright young men? Gavin plans in the short term to "move out of his parents home, learn a bit more Spanish and take part in politics writing his MPs and perhaps in the long-term become involved in the support mechanism for the formation of the European Union.

Chris' future is "pretty much decided." After leaving RFPI, he plans to enroll in the Royal Military Academy to train officers for the British Army. "There's lots of reasons why I've chosen this course of action. One of them is my contact with the British Forces through the Reserves. But there's a lot more to it than that." Chris subscribes to the philosophy of General Harbottle that armies of the world should move towards more peaceful endeavors toward disaster relief, for example. "I think," says Chris, "one of the best ways of going about doing that is from the inside rather than from the outside." He gives the example of having the great desire to spend his four year military commitment in Bosnia or other war zone, to be part of the peace process dismantling landmines, building hospitals, bridges, and airports. After which, he will set his sights on becoming a war correspondent for a progressive newspaper such as The Independent in Britain. This, once again, as a contribution to peace by providing information the developed world has a right to know. "The best way of countering irresponsible journalism," says Chris, "is to provide responsible journalism oneself."

A great note to close on as we wrap up the profiles of these two talented and outstanding human beings.

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