Journalist Brian Byrnes 98 moved
and his career started to tango
by Fabricio Di Dio
with a smoky club, a sultry tango, a steak as thick as a linebackers
wrist sizzling on the grill. Thats where Brian Byrnes 98 began
when he chose to move to Argentina, or, as he puts it, the country chose
him. But the independent journalist soon discovered much more: Beauty,
tragedy, and a venue to build himself a different, more adventurous life.
After a stint as a reporter and producer with WCAX-TV in Burlington, Byrnes
sought a shot at the big time. He wanted to become a foreign correspondent,
so he jumped on an offer to spend a month traveling through Argentinas
rugged Patagonia region to update a travel book. Then, in early 2001,
he moved to Buenos Aires, an elegant city once called the Paris
of Latin America, now torn apart by corruption, crime, a bizarre
presidential election, and a devastating financial crisis that has nearly
destroyed the citys middle class.
I had, Byrnes says, no idea what I was getting into.
As he filed stories for National Public Radio, CBS radio, the Washington
Post and the Miami Herald, Byrnes built his reporting skills even as he
found his journalistic ideals being challenged.
I have been trained to report on just the facts and to not get emotionally
involved with the story, he writes, but that doctrine has
been repeatedly tested as I am approached daily by an ever-growing stream
of street children begging for change and I see countless unemployed fathers
ransacking through garbage cans in search of scraps of food for their
Through all that, Byrnes became confidently bilingual and familiar enough
with his adopted city to write a travel guide. He has covered huge stories
at a crucial moment in Argentinas history, getting assignments that
a young reporter based in the United States would never receive. And,
amid writing about riots and failed presidential elections, he has also
pursued more pleasurable subjects from strolling with a horde of
thousands of Magellanic penguins in Patagonia to hopping aboard the Argentine
presidential jet, the Tango 01, for a jaunt to a wine festival in the
I really love living here, he says. I am doing what
I have always wanted to do and think I have a lot more to learn about
the art of storytelling.
Despite the pain of chronicling a country in turmoil, the freelancers
anxiety of always chasing his next reporting gig (anxiety that has subsided
as he has better established himself with stateside editors), and the
occasional frustration of dealing with the slower, stranger rhythms of
daily life in a different culture, Byrnes isnt going to leave Buenos
Aires any time soon. The life of a foreign correspondent has hooked him,
and theres more to do: like branching out from his current print
and radio work back into television, perhaps with a long-form documentary.
But Byrnes confesses that he still finds the idea of a new address and
new experiences alluring. One day, he confesses, he would like to try
living in Africa.