Phineas is a contributing writer for our publications.
Phineas is pursuing masters degrees in journalism and human rights at Sciences Po in Paris. A graduate of Macalester College, his writing has been published in Atlas Obscura, News Deeply and Frenchly.
As a journalism student who has studied both in the United States and in France, have you noticed any differences in how the two countries approach journalism and how have you learned to reconcile those differences?
Like in many aspects of life, the main difference I see between the French and the American styles of journalism is in the directness of the approach. The American style is a cut-and-dried, matter-of-fact, tell-it-as-it-is sort of journalism. The reporting is the same, for the most part. You call a couple of sources, they say what's on their mind, and you write the story. In France — it seems to me, at least — reading the news is more like reading a work of literature. It’s written, not stated. The reporting process reflects that complexity. Nothing is simple, from understanding the subtleties of the language to knowing when or how or with whom to schedule an interview. I'm still figuring out how to do journalism in France. I've been trying to reconcile the different styles by slowing down and accepting the French pace, by taking the time to understand the full context before I dive in. But as the French say all-too-often, ce n’est pas évident.
If you were given the assignment to write an article called “Paris Through Phineas’s Eyes,” what would you write about?
Beetles. When I was growing up, my parents used to teach a study abroad course in Paris every summer, which meant that in the month of July my family would close up shop in Brooklyn and take a plane to France. As a kid I was obsessed with beetles, so much so that I wanted to become an entomologist — a scientist who studies beetles. (I would later say I wanted to be herpetologist, a scientist who studies lizards, before eventually renouncing science and setting my sights on becoming a baseball player — by far the least realistic option given my body type.) Back then there was — and still is — a taxidermy store in Saint-Germain-des-Pres called Deyrolle that had drawers and drawers of colorful insects. My dad and I would spend hours there; we got to know the owners a little bit and eventually amassed a small trove of exotic bugs. I would write a story about finding beetles in Paris and my childhood and my dad. I still might write it.