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Former local now citizen of ‘The World’

Marco Werman

By Margot C. Lester
Staff Writer

Longtime locals are hearing a familiar voice on WUNC-FM these days. “The World,” a joint venture between the BBC and Public Radio International, now airs at 3 p.m. weekdays on 91.5 and features former Carrboro resident Marco Werman. The Citizen caught up with Werman via email while he was on assignment in Bogotá, Colombia.

Q. Why should listeners tune in to “The World”?

A. Because every ice cream shop needs many flavors, and despite recent shifts in the way America is perceived in the world, this country definitely still needs to be better aware of “out there.” We get to decide what is the most important news story of the day from anywhere in the world. We try hard to offer news that no one else is going to have, but when you hear it, you’ll wonder why other outlets didn’t have it.

Q. How’d you get started in radio?

A. I was mad about photography and wanted to be W. Eugene Smith or Burk Uzzle. I took tons of photos in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. I loved it there, stayed on to freelance, writing for the AP in Burkina Faso. But to pay my bills, I was ready to file for anyone who was interested in a dateline from Ouagadougou. The BBC World Service had a regional service for Africa, and I started to file. I had grown up without TV, so spent a lot of my time listening to radio and spoken-word records. I managed to teach myself how to produce sound-rich radio features. A year after I started with the BBC, I won a Sony radio prize for a documentary I produced on child labor in gold mines in Burkina Faso.

Q. What interview had you the most excited/star-struck? Why?
A. [Musician] Ali Farka Toure in his village in Mali. [President] Evo Morales at the Bolivian mission to the UN, when he asked his aide to find us some coca leaf to chew. The aide demurred.

Q. What did you want to be when you were growing up in Carrboro?

A. I think at first a fireman. But I was one of those weirdo kids who knew at a young age pretty much what I wanted to do with my life. Journalist always struck me as the neat intersection of writer and investigator-of-many-things, and having the freedom because you are a “journalist” to call anyone up or knock on any door, and ask whatever you want of the person, as long as you are ready to face certain disappointing responses, ranging from a slammed door or a simple “no comment.” But when you strike gold, it’s great.

I won second place when I was 13 in the N.C. Young Filmmaker’s competition sponsored by WUNC-TV. Somewhere in their archive should be my version of “Tora Tora Tora,” revisioned by me a la Rushmore in my bathtub and in the creek behind our house up near Airport Road. I really can’t believe that it won anything. But it decided for me what professional direction I was going to take.

Q. What would it surprise people to know about you?

A. I may be the only person on the planet who can say this, or has the nerve to say this: Though I went to Duke, I support both UNC and Duke hoops. Hey, I grew up in Chapel Hill. That Carolina blue gets under your skin, stays there, and no amount of indoctrination can change that. When I was a kid, Bob McAdoo gave me his autograph on Franklin Street. You can’t shake that.

Q. What else do you want our readers to know about you?

A. I think N.C. barbecue is a high art. I’m a little obsessive when it comes to food, and I feel guilty sometimes that I am, since there are so many people who don’t have even bad food to eat. But ultimately, I don’t want to relax my standards, because of the value I place on what I eat. I do think it’s important to the planet that you don’t overdress a salad, and that chicken doesn’t have to taste like Kleenex. I would explain that deeper, but then I’d be obsessing.

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