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Portrait Gallery: Cathy Booth Thomas, Journalism

Cathy Booth ThomasCathy Booth Thomas, adjunct instructor of journalism, traveled the world as a journalist, covered wars and world events, but would rather not interview Hollywood celebrities.

What is your title? How long have you worked at UNT?

I’ve been a lowly adjunct for three years, but I also edit two magazines put out by students at the Mayborn School of Journalism, Denton Live and Mayborn, an award-winning literary nonfiction magazine that is two years old.

What is your academic and professional experience?

I was a journalist for 35 years, 22 of them at TIME magazine. I was based in New York, Rome, Miami, Los Angeles and finally Dallas, my hometown. I’ve covered everything from Hollywood to high tech to wars and politics. I’ve traveled with the pope, been shot at in Lebanon covering the Palestinians, and interviewed Fidel Castro four times - which is tough -  as well as Paul McCartney, Russell Crowe, Bono, Sting, Stephen King, Andrew Wyeth, Gianni Versace, Bernardo Bertolucci, Richard Branson, Michael Dell and Mark Cuban among others. Oh, and Bill Clinton, Laura Bush and Margaret Thatcher.

You’ve been able to interview many influential people.  Who was most memorable?

Fidel CastroSteve Jobs was tough. I spent a week on the road with him for a TIME cover story. He yelled at me afterwards, but we respected each other and later, I did three more stories with him. I universally hated all Hollywood interviews. They are just horrid. But I liked Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman even better, and you couldn’t find a nicer guy than Tom Hanks. Castro, right, wasn’t that intimidating. But he talked in big circular arguments that you couldn’t parse, much less digest for a weekly magazine. Most heartrending? A group of women who had killed their abusive husbands, all in prison for life. I couldn’t tell which ones had been truly abused and which ones were cold-hearted killers.

Do you have a favorite location or subject that you covered?

I was the most hated woman at TIME magazine for the four years because I was posted in Rome. I covered Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, the Vatican, Milan fashion and Italian food.  Oh, for a plate of spaghetti alle vongole right now!

Tell us about your family

I am married for a second time - typical of a journalist who used to travel all the time - and I have two stepdaughters. The oldest graduated this year and, like me, was salutatorian of her class.

What is your favorite book?

Favorite all-time book: Dispatches by Michael Herr, about the Vietnam War. Current fave: Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini, about a journalist who is shot in the back, goes into a big depression and finds sanity in a plate of pasta.

(It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.)

(Interview by Megan Beck, student assistant, University Relations, Communications and Marketing)

Posted on: Thu 09 September 2010

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