Thursday, January 7, 2010

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rob Lever: One Year Later

During Peter's time in Washington, I may have spent more time with him than anyone, dealing with matters of the desk, union contracts (since I was the guild representative) and a variety of other issues. We seemed to have a bond because of a number of things we had in common: We were both from New York, both worked in VISTA, married French women and had a dedication to and love for journalism. One thing that struck me about Peter is that during all the meetings we had, all the tough discussions, he always was willing to take a call from his wife or one of his daughters, whatever the issue. I recall the shift from tough editor to tender family man, and then back again, many times. As hard as Peter worked -- and he seemed to be the hardest and most most dedicated person in the office -- you also knew his heart was at home. And I thought of him as lucky to be doing something at work he really loved while being surrounded by a caring family.

On the professional side:
If you look at AFP's history over the last two decades, there is probably no one more important than Peter Mackler in transforming what had been one of a number of sleepy European news agencies into one of the major players in the global news market. I think Peter understood better than anyone the need to develop the English language service to be a major global player. But he also had the force of personality and understanding of the French (he was the only person I knew who spoke perfect French with a Brooklyn accent) to be able to move the French bureaucracy and shake up the system. He seemed to have a Napoleonic vision -- he conquered Europe, conquered Asia, conquered North America -- to help AFP grow.
In Washington, he understood the need to disconnect AFP from AP to fully compete, and engineered that change, which allowed the US operations to grow and flourish. He also understood the importance of technology and got us all on the Internet (I remember the first time I used it was Peter's AOL account at the office). He spearheaded the creation of multimedia and video departments at AFP. So in all, I think there are dozens of people in North America (and probably many more elsewhere) who owe their jobs to Peter, who made it possible not only to work at AFP but be part of a dynamic news operation that competes with other global players.

--Rob Lever (AFP)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chuck Kuhn: Memories of Indianapolis

First I'd like to extend my condolences following Pete's death. I read with sorrow about his death. That was combined with a degree of pride in having known him and happiness in knowing that Pete had good friends, family and the respect he deserved from his peers.
I had not seen Pete in 35 years. I was a Vista volunteer serving in Indianapolis' Meyer Neighborhood House with Pete and Tim Curtin. He and I both worked together, briefly, at a state hospital in Indianapolis as psychiatric aides.
I'd like to think that I was present when Pete got his first taste of journalism. You see, we were young radicals in a very conservative city. We got involved in what was referred to as the "underground press". I remember Pete writing stories for the Indianapolis Free Press. We did everything: we wrote, edited, had all-night parties when we laidout and pasted up the finished product, before driving the paste-ups to the printer. I remember seeing Pete on street corners hawking papers.
Pete decided to leave Indianapolis and he had arranged to get a driveaway car that he was taking to Texas. There were five of us. We spent a night sleeping under the stars in KC and in the morning Pete dropped Tim and I at a highway and we hitchhiked to South Dakota to follow a story for the Free Press. Pete went on to San Francisco and lived there for a brief time, before returning to Brooklyn.
The Pete I knew was still trying to find himself, I'm glad that he was able to do so.
Apparently, about the time of Pete's death, I was having dinner with another of Pete's old friends, Mike Cruz, and we talked and laughed as we reminisced about old friends including Pete. We speculated about what had happened to him.
I emailed Pete's obit to Mike and he wrote back that he was gratified to see that Pete had matured so well and that he remembered him as "a great guy".
Once again I am sorry for your loss. Feel free to contact me by return email. I have stories that I can relate, bu that Pete was a different one than you knew, I am sure. Please relate my condolences also to your daughters.

Chuck Kuhn

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Road Hazard

PHOTO: Peter covered the war in Bosnia. In this photo, he examines the wrecked APC in which he had been riding (1993).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Camille Mackler: Baseball was our common language

My dad had two daughters and a very French wife. But he needed someone to discuss sports with. Unfortunately, we lived abroad for most of my childhood, mainly in countries where cricket was the most exciting sport. So my dad taught me first how to speak English, and then he taught me about sports. We lived in Hong Kong and we rooted for the New York Knicks. We moved to Brussels and I learned to love the Yankees.

The Yankees were somewhat of a conundrum for my father, having grown up in Brooklyn with the Dodgers his entire boyhood. But then, what child doesn't root for at least one team that will drive their father nuts? In the end, perhaps in one of his greatest acts of love to me, my father converted, and the Yankees became our team. Our reference point. Our go-to source for analogy and metaphor. The last time I saw my dad, we were together at Yankee stadium on our yearly excursion to the subway series. We rooted together valiantly, but unsuccessfully, for the Yanks to beat the Mets.

Of all the sports, baseball was our favorite. I don’t know why, but maybe it is because it combines our love for history and anecdotes, and because it is the one sport, more than any other, that will give an underdog a chance. Whenever our teams weren’t playing, we always rooted for the underdogs together. Even in 2005, after the Yankees inexplicably went on strike half-way through the American League Championship Series and the hated Red Sox won their first World Series in eighty-six years, my father called me to tell me that there was a very small part of him that was happy for Red Sox fans. Secretly, there was a very small part of me that agreed. And then he told me that if I ever quoted him on that, he would deny it.

I loved the stories my father told me about growing up in Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s, playing stick ball on the street. He told me how his older brother Steve took him aside one day, after a particularly miserable attempt to connect stick to ball, and taught him the secret: Just count in your head “and-one-and-two-and-swing.” He told me about how my grandfather would take him to watch batting practice at Ebbets Field and one day pointed out a particularly scrawny black kid who couldn’t seem to hit the ground with his bat when he tried. That kid, my grandfather announced, would turn into one of the greatest hitters of his time. That kid’s name was Hank Aaron. After my grandfather died, my father and I took refuge at the Museum of Natural History, which had on exhibit at the time part of the collection from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. We found solace in wandering through the rooms, looking at Joe DiMaggio’s first glove, seats from the Polo Grounds, dirt from Candlestick Park.

When we moved to the States, my dad introduced me to American football. And yes, I say American football, because the tenacious French person in me will not agree to a game that actually involves a foot and a ball being renamed soccer for America's convenience. We added the NY Giants to our roster of conversation topics. Last February, I came down to DC to watch our Giants compete in the Superbowl for the first time in eight years. I hadn't done that since college, but then again, neither had the Giants. Whether we won or lost, one thing was clear, my father was the only person I wanted to be with when it happened. We commiserated, cheered, and lamented through the first 3 quarters together. We kneeled side by side on the floor in front of the TV, knuckles white, during the last drive of the game, not breathing until David Tyree caught that last pass over his head and Plaxico Buress scored the final touch down. We jumped up and down like maniacs when the game was over, screaming, cheering, hugging, and probably convincing my mom we both needed to be committed without delay. That would have been fine, as long as we had neighboring padded cells. He bought the DVD that memorialized the Giants 2007-2008 season, and watched it when he’d had a bad day.

My dad often told me I should become a sports writer. He loved reading the round ups of the local teams’ efforts that I would send to his email box whenever he was off in some remote corner of the world, covering, or more often than not anticipating, the next big story. I was proud to think he enjoyed my writing. But mostly, I was happy that we had this world that we could share, just the two of us. Just one more facet of our priceless bond.

-- Camille Mackler

Monday, July 14, 2008

James Brown: Deepest sympathies

I wanted to pass on our deepest sympathies to everyone at AFP – I was greatly saddened to hear of Peter’s death.

I remember meeting Peter for the first time in 2006 when we first thinking of launching ForesightNews in the States.

To be honest I wondered what his reaction would be to some upstart Englishman who dared to even think of starting up a news-events service for journalists – and, if I am honest, it was with great trepidation that I waited to meet him !

Like every time I subsequently met him, he never seemed to be doing less than 20 things at once, whether editing, monitoring the wires, questioning passing colleagues and having at least 2 telephone lines perpetually “blinking” at him.

In the midst of this stream of all equally urgent business, he was incredibly generous with his time and showed such great faith in what we wanted to achieve.

It was only over the next couple of years that I found out by chance that he had from time-to-time passed our name to other agencies in DC suggesting they contact us – typically he never told me he had done this for us, but as someone let slip a couple of months ago, he had said wanted to support us in anyway he could.

Peter continually demanded we “raise the bar”, always said we could do better and better and his wise words and advice were always hugely appreciated.

Peter was a “giant” and I wanted to convey in a small way our huge debt to him for all his support and the great kindness he showed to us.

Key Accounts Director