David Greene is a host of NPR’s Morning Edition. Previously, he was an NPR foreign correspondent based in Moscow and wrote a book about traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia. Before speaking at a Zócalo event on Russia and America’s relationship—“Is Russia America’s Biggest Foreign Threat?”—Greene talked in the Zócalo green room about working in the White House, video games, and his most embarrassing mistake as a young editor.
Do you have any rituals before going on air?
I keep a stash of Trader Joe’s Ginger Chews. They’re good for your voice, and they’re delicious. But they also take a minute or so to chew, so you have to be careful with timing.
Your reporting has taken you around the world, from New Orleans to Iraq. Where would you like to visit that you haven’t already?
If you could spend a day as any animal, which animal would you be?
Probably a dog. A big, friendly dog, with really nice owners.
Do you have a favorite room in the White House?
I covered the West Wing for eight years. My favorite room that I worked in was the NPR booth. It was like sharing a closet. I fell in love with that place.
You once were a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. What did you do in Baltimore when you weren’t on the job?
I sailed on weekends. It was a chance to be out on the water drinking beer. My parents were big sailing racers back in the day.
You spent three months driving across America to report on the effects of the recession. Tell me one of the most surprising things you saw on your journey.
There was an American soldier in Iraq who wrote to me from Baghdad, saying a lot of his fellow former soldiers were deciding to re-enlist because the American economy was so bad. He put me in touch with one of them, and I met with him in the States. It was really extreme, really sad—a window into how awful the economy was.
Are video games a waste of time or the next great art form?
I love them. Does that mean they’re the next great art form? I mean, they’re certainly not a waste of time—I just don’t know if that makes them a great form of art.
You edited the Harvard Crimson while in school. What’s a story you remember editing that you were proud of?
I edited a story about the closing of the Tasty Sandwich Shop, which was this greasy spoon place that was really important to everyone on campus. But my low point was when we ran a lead story about the dean of public service, and I didn’t catch that his title was written as “dean of pubic service.”
What’s the difference between writing and radio hosting?
You’re using different muscles. Either way, you’re envisioning the story you’re going to produce as it takes shape. But if I’m reporting for a written story, I can listen to someone talk for three minutes. If you’re hosting during a [radio] discussion, you really have to learn how to manage the situation, so that you don’t let someone dominate the conversation.
What’s your hidden talent?
I am convinced that in another life I would be a great travel agent. My wife makes fun of me because I seem to enjoy travel planning as much as travel itself.