Tag Archives: Justin Catanoso

NPR commentary: Our Cousin, the Saint — how it all started

bookIf not for this three-minute commentary on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on Oct. 20, 2005, the book shown here would not exist. While my commentary aired, Randi Murray, a literary agent in San Francisco, listened in her driveway. She told me that when she finished crying, she dashed into her house, looked me up on the internet and sent me an email, which said in essence, “There’s a book in that commentary if you’re interested, and I’d like to represent you.” I spoke with Randi after returning from Italy with my family after the canonization. She coached me through the process of producing a 50-page book proposal over the next few months. And in March 2006, she negotiated a contract for me with a division of HarperCollins. When I look back on all that — how it started and what it produced — I’m left with only one reasonable explanation: It was a miracle.


Elle.com: Emmylou Harris Is Ready to Do Something About the Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II

Emmylou Harris and me, Rome, 2016.

Technically, this Q&A for the famous fashion magazine (website) Elle.com is not a travel story. But my subject and I certainly had to travel a long way to meet up and talk in Rome, Italy.

Emmylou Harris, the iconic queen of country music, had traveled from her home in Nashville to see how she could do her part to alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis in decades; I had traveled from my home in Greensboro, N.C., to lead a summer session in foreign affairs reporting for a dozen amazing aspiring journalists, all women, from Wake Forest University.

It all came about because my good friend in Rome, Jill Drzewiecki with the Jesuit Refugee Service, had organized Emmylou’s visit as a potential fundraiser to help the wave after wave of immigrants flooding Europe in the summer of 2016, especially Italy. Jill asked if I would interview Emmylou and write a story. Yes, please, was my immediate response. Another friend at Elle, features editor Laura Abraham, opened the door to this story. I wrote two others, including one for Mongabay!

“I’m just a tiny part, a tiny drop,” she told me of her fundraising through music idea that was just forming. “But who knows what we can accomplish. I mean, how can you see so much pain and suffering and think that it’s normal? It’s not normal. But you have to have hope. You have to believe. You have to feel like you can make a difference.” 

Emmylou and I talked for about an hour on the streets of Rome as the group she was with was touring a part of the city frequented by immigrants and never tourists. She was warm, candid and easy to talk with. That evening, I was invited to a rooftop concert by Emmylou at the home of the U.S. Ambassador for the UN Agencies. Me, a few other friends and about 50 priests. What a night. What a fabulous human being.

Emmylou Harris performing at the residence of David Lane, the U.S. ambassador to UN Agencies.

Trouble In Paradise–Too Much Plastic In Our Oceans

13My radio commentary for March 27, 2015 was based on my Spring Break trip to Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Long Caye, which is located 47 miles off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean. In such a tiny, remote and pristine place, I was stunned by the sight of so much plastic waste. I wrestled with how to localize this international problem for my Triad Business Journal column. Fortunately, Will Scott, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, offered exactly what I needed to hear. The radio report with Keri Brown is here.

Excerpt: “I think the first thing is understanding that when it comes to the environment, our actions here have an impact just about everywhere else. That’s when you realize that how you answer the question ‘paper or plastic’ can make a difference. So can buying a Brita filter instead of a case of bottled water.”

WUNC: How Is Climate Change Affecting Tropical Forests?

The view from 13,000 feet in Manu National Park, Andes Mountains, southeastern Peru.

This radio report (7:17 minutes) for WUNC-North Carolina Public Radio overviews my climate change reporting in summer 2013 from the Amazon basin of Peru. It discusses the implications of upslope tree migration in the Amazon jungles as a result of warming temperatures.

The second recording (12 minutes) is of Wake Forest biologist MIles Silman and me on the afternoon news program at WUNC, The State of Things, with Frank Stasio, discussing the same topic.

Wake Forest biologist Miles Silman in the Peruvian cloud forest.

Photos by Justin Catanoso