Reporter on a Global Beat
Woodard, A91, has circled the globe to write his first book, Ocean's
End: Travels Through Endangered Seas. Over a year and half he
chronicled the ecological collapse of the Black Sea and the Grand
Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, the formation of a 7000-square-mile
swath of the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone, and the effects
of U.S. atomic testing on Central Pacific Islanders. He has seen
the dramatic consequences of pollution on the coral reefs of Belize
and of warming trends on Antarctica's ice shelves.
Woodard is at home in these disparate corners of the earth, even
though journalism is a profession he more or less fell into. He
grew up in Strong, Maine, a small town (pop. 1000) not only hours
from the ocean, but also an hour's drive from the nearest haircut.
In Tufts, Woodard found a "convenient mix of a campus with
lots of trees and access to a major city." He enjoyed working
as news editor of the Tufts Daily, but never gave much thought
to journalism. "I flirted with biology and English first, then
Soviet studies and ended up with history." When he flew to
Budapest in September of 1989 on a study abroad program, he added
to his liberal arts background the "incredibly lucky"
experience of witnessing history in the making. "We watched
communism collapse around us," he recalls.
That semester was a new beginning. On a Tufts Young Scholar's Grant,
Woodard studied in Romania that summer of 1990. After graduation,
he lived in Budapest for four years, traveling and writing for mainstream
publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Christian
Science Monitor, and other publications. In 1995 he returned to
the U.S. to earn a master's in international relations at the University
of Chicago, where he won the Morton Kaplan Prize for the best-written
master's thesis. He then moved to Zagreb, Croatia, and covered the
Balkans and the Bosnian peace process for the Monitor.
His first environmental reporting dealt with the Danube and how
it conveyed pollution to the Black Sea. Headlines, he recalls, carried
reports of a "shocking environmental catastrophe . . . the
rapid destruction of an entire sea." And later, in Maine, he
heard the news that the Grand Banks, one of the world's most productive
fisheries, had been closed for lack of cod. In early 1997, back
in Maine, he began to see connections. "I figured these events
were related in some way. I started researching to satisfy my curiosity,
and the answer I found was that scientists were horrified by what
was happening. I started reporting proj-ects on the ocean and conceiving
an idea for a book.
With his first chapter on the Black Sea, Woodard approached Jill
Grinberg, J92, a book agent, for advice. Grinberg ultimately took
on the job herself. "Somewhere along the line she got hooked
on the idea herself. It's a wonderful match-she's an excellent agent."
Another Tufts link is Karl Schatz, A92, former photo editor at the
Daily and longtime friend, who took Woodard's author photo
and is now picture editor at Time.com.
Ocean's End begins, as did Woodard's own journey, on the
Black Sea, whose "near total destruction provides a cautionary
tale of what can happen when marine environments are treated with
reckless abandon," he writes. "There is no question: the
ocean is in serious trouble," adds Woodard. "It is a global
entity with problems that are global in nature; we can only conserve
marine ecosystems as ecosystems. Effective solutions will require
cooperation on a scale that we're not accustomed to doing and don't
do well. . . . We must work together or the symptoms in the book
will be just the beginning of much larger problems to come."