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Svengali management

Svengali management

Congratulations Phnom Penh Post! What a long strange trip it's been.

It's more than a paper. It has become an institution surfing the concept of free

press in a dynamic political environment. Ten years with no rockets, arrests or closures

... not bad!

I remember my mom Nell coming over one morning as the paper went out to Bangkok in

mid-1997. We used to stay up all night a lot back then. It was kind of an endurance

test. "It must be so rewarding," she beamed looking over the crumpled remains

of Red Bull cans, Marlboro Light packets and bleary-eyed journalists on the verge

of collapse. She'd just got up. Publisher Hayes said his teeth hurt.

The humble newsroom, the only one I've ever been in where grey-topped photographers

could spark up more than a conversation, hasn't changed much. Michael Hayes' Svengali-like

management style prevails. Nobody knows why, but some semblance of order emerges

from the chaos. The Post's greatest talent has been attracting great talent and muddling

through.

The country has changed a bit since the paper started. You could walk across Monivong

(or Achar Mean) with your eyes closed and the only thing to fear were UNTAC personnel

learning how to drive groovy Land Cruisers. The expat scene was different of course,

but as now everybody seemed to drink a lot.

Back in early '92 Mike got punched five times after he got in a heated argument with

a drunk Vietnam Vet with no legs who called him a spook. And of all places it was

at the Cafe No Problem. He didn't retaliate because the guy had an upper body the

size of a gorilla's.

He later stumbled back to the Renakse, took some pictures of his bruised face in

the mirror thinking "Great history...got to document it." And then crashed

in bed, only to wake up and find there was no film in the camera.

Back to the paper, it has covered a slice of Cambodian modern history unparalleled

by any other. With world-class color photos, a posse of willing writers when the

going got tough and no cheap handouts, the paper has pulled through.

Viva Phnom Penh Post!

óHurley has contributed regularly to the Post and was a full-time reporter

from May to Oct 1997.

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