herald

Monday 15 September 2014

I was mad to take on American job, admits Charlie

Charlie Bird has finally confirmed what everybody, except RTE, has always known -- he is sad and lonely on his own in Washington DC.

The RTE US correspondent has never fully embraced the job he reluctantly took one year ago.

But it is the true extent of Charlie's misery that is revealed tonight in a documentary to be broadcast on RTE.

In Charlie Bird's American Year, we learn that the veteran chief news correspondent found that in the US nobody gave a "flying fiddler" who he was.

"I don't know what madness possessed me to take on this job," says Bird.

"I didn't know a soul in Washington and was facing into a whole life away from friends and family," he adds.

The 60-year-old, who is currently reporting from Haiti, likened his Washington experience to starting his career all over again.

"It's taken me a lifetime back home to build up solid political contacts, and in DC I started from scratch. I have to say it all felt a little daunting," Charlie tells viewers.

"People who have come here before, who were working for RTE, have always spoken about the loneliness of the place," Bird says.

"At my age, I find it even more so. People have this notion that, when foreign correspondents are abroad, everything is fantastic, it's hunky dory. It takes time to get to know people. I didn't know anybody. I have to admit I found it really lonely," he adds.

Bird still has another year of his two-year stint in Washington to complete. It seems likely that Charlie will be returning to his Montrose base after his US mission.

Bird has also struggled with covering a country the size of America, missing some of the biggest stories in the US last year, such as the death of Michael Jackson in Los Angeles.

In Charlie Bird's American Year, the cameras follow the intrepid reporter as he chases his stories. He and an American camera crew illustrate the restrictions placed around filming at a Guantanamo Bay detention centre shortly after President Barack Obama promised to close down the base.

Charlie Bird's American Year is on RTE1 at 9.35pm tonight

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