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University News

Student Journalist Is Mideast Bound

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March 19, 2003

Ronald Paul Larson in Kuwait

Graduate history major Ronald Paul Larson, a reporter for the Daily Titan, is in Kuwait as the only student journalist credentialed by the Pentagon to cover a possible conflict in Iraq.

The 39-year-old former Army infantryman applied for a press credential in February and is now deployed with an Army engineering unit.

“I want to get as far forward as possible,” he said, noting that Army engineers perform such duties as building bridges and clearing minefields. “I've been told it will be very interesting.”

Larson is shouldering most of the costs associated with his four-to-six-week stint abroad. Contributions from fellow students, his landlord and friends are helping to defray some of the expenses-for airline tickets, gear and rental of a satellite phone.

Larson will use the satellite hookup to send dispatches from his laptop computer. In addition to writing for the Daily Titan, which he joined last semester,he has agreements with various news outlets, including the Orange County Register, and his hometown newspaper, to publish his work. More than 660 college newspapers also will have access to his stories from a news service that caters to universities.

The La Habra resident hails from Wisconsin, where he earned his undergraduate degree in history and communication arts-radio/TV/film. He enlisted in the Army in 1981 and served for two years as an MP in Germany, where he guarded special weapons.

No stranger to war-torn regions, Larson spent a month in Afghanistan in 1985 photographing Moujahedeen soldiers fighting the Russian army, then traveled to India. Back in the states, he worked as head text researcher for the Learning Channel on a six-part series about the Revolutionary War.

His latest overseas sojourn may figure into an independent study project for a graduate class.

“This kind of assignment fits very nicely into his interests in military history,” said Gordon Bakken, professor of history. “I think this is a great opportunity for Ron and a tremendous leap for the Daily Titan.”

Last-minute preparations consumed Larson's days before departure. His visa arrived Friday, and Sunday, he broke the news to his parents. His father “played up the positives and played down the negatives,” Larson recalled of their conversation. His mother was a little less enthusiastic, though supportive. “I didn't tell her about the {biohazard} suit and having to get a helmet.”

Larson spent much of Monday being interviewed by television news reporters and was an in-studio guest on Tuesday's edition of KCET's “Life & Times.” He was due to board a plane Wednesday - then his laptop died, delaying his flight to the Middle East until the weekend.

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Related Stories

• CSUF Reporter on His Way to a Setting for War
The Orange County Register, March 16, 2003 (article about Ronald Paul Larson, a graduate student, traveling to Kuwait)

• Time for Moral Courage on Both Sides
Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2003 (commentary from Bejamine J. Hubbard, professor and chairman of department of comparative religion)

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