John Hughes has been around.
When the native of Wales became the Christian Science Monitor's African correspondent in 1954, it was only the beginning of a career that would make him one of the world's most traveled men. His reporting on the volatile situation in Indochina before and during the Vietnam War won him a Pulitzer Prize, journalism's most prestigious award. Shortly after returning from the Far East, he was named the Monitor's editor-in-chief and, later, its publisher.Hughes served as the State Department spokesman from 1982 to 1985 and as information director for the U.S. Information Agency from 1981 to 1985. He owned a chain of Boston-area newspapers from 1977 to 1985.
And now Hughes has decided to take a one-year leave of absence from his position as journalism professor at Brigham Young University to be U.N. director of communications at U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's request.
Boutros-Ghali would like to have him in New York in that post for a lot longer, Hughes said. But for Hughes, there's no place like Provo.
"I'm very happy here at BYU," Hughes said. "I wasn't interested in going to the United Nations for more than a year because of that very fact."
Although his job officially begins Jan. 2, he spent the past week at the United Nations, setting up appearances for Boutros-Ghali on "Larry King Live" and the McNeil-Lehrer news program.
He has also moved quickly toward providing help for a U.N. mission in dire need of assistance in the post-Cold War era - public relations.
Hughes said his plans at the United Nations will be twofold:
- "The first thing I'll set out to do is to get Mr. Boutros-Ghali and others out there to explain the proper role of the United Nations," he said. "The U.N. is only as effective as the members. I think people need to understand that U.N. soldiers are lightly armed and supposed to keep peace, not wage war.
- "The second thing is that there is some misinformation about the role of the U.N. that needs to be sorted out," he continued. "It has been 50 years since the U.N. charter was signed, and I feel the U.N. needs to define its role for the next 50 years."
Hughes admits that these may be big plans for someone who only has a year to complete them. Yet he feels a year is all he needs to accomplish his mission, or at least to get it started.
"I don't know if I'll be able to accomplish my job in the year I'll be there," he said. "I hope to get the work started and heading in the right direction. Maybe we can get the machine moving more smoothly than it has in the past."
And while his job with the United Nations may lead him to several different regions of the world, he'll be content to come back to Provo.
"I am remarkably happy in Provo. There is very much that I'm in harmony with here."
Hughes points to the work he has begun at BYU, both as a journalism professor and as director of the department of communications' International Media Study Program. His knowledge of journalism, his worldwide contacts and hard work have been the catalyst to making BYU a leader in journalism studies nationwide. Hughes already has set up student internships in Egypt and has arranged for students from Croatia and Egypt to study at BYU.
At BYU he has found an atmosphere where students espouse a high standard of ethics.
"I think these students are serious, conscientious and very concerned with putting in a good effort to find a job in the journalism profession. When my profession should be concerned with ethics, it's great to see these students with such high standards and ethics.
"We have a good journalism program that is very professional," he said. "I like the pondering and the thought the students use in classes. I have spent a lifetime in journalism, and I really like the quality of students here."