Volume 13, Number 1, 2004

The road from UD's rinks to Saddam's hidey-holee

Whether he's ice skating in Central Park or exploring a deposed dictator's hiding place in Iraq, Archie Tse, a graphics reporter at The New York Times, credits his experiences at the University of Delaware.

From 1989-92, Tse served as graphics editor and executive editor at The Review, UD's student newspaper, and he says that job gave him a chance to get into a career he really likes.

"It's a career that you can make some money at and still have some fun," Tse says. "I also find that it is personally fulfilling.

"The experience that working at The Review creates for young journalists is great," he says. "The impact on society that the journalism program at UD has made also is great. We more than hold our own in the business, and I'm really proud of that."

Tse's personal connection with the University began in 1986, when he and his sister, Ginger, EG '92, arrived in Newark to train with legendary figure skating coach Ron Ludington, now director of the Ice Skating Science Development Center at UD.

"We had been training in pairs skating with Ron at the Skating Club of Wilmington for three years," Tse says. "In those days, the hours when we could train were scattered and inconvenient, so when the University offered us a schedule with daytime training hours, we accepted."

While at the Skating Club, Archie and Ginger took first place in 1984 at the junior national championships, and the pair continued to skate well at the University, earning a series of top-10 finishes in national and international competitions.

"People used to ask me if I ever wished that I had had a normal life and didn't have to put in all those hours of training, " Tse says. "I would not trade anything for the experience that I had at UD."

Part of the fun, he says, came from meeting people from other cultural backgrounds and trading gifts with fellow teammates.

Tse also says that the friendships that he and his sister developed while training at the University have endured, noting that two of his former teammates were part of his wedding party.

"A lot of us had moved to Delaware. We lived by ourselves, but we looked out for each other," Tse says. "One of the great things about training at Delaware is that we went to competitions as a team, and everyone knew we were the team from Delaware. It was a great experience."

Rookie reporter rises to executive editor at Review

After a skating career that began at ages 7 and 5 respectively, Archie and

Ginger decided to hang up their competitive skates in 1989 and pursue studies in journalism and engineering at the University.

"When you are in an ice-skating program, you train at least six hours a day," Tse says. "When you stop, you need something to fill the void."

For Ginger, this meant earning an undergraduate degree at UD and a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in chemical engineering.

Archie first worked on the campaign of S.B. Woo, a retired UD professor of physics who served as Delaware's lieutenant governor from 1985-89. When he saw an ad for a graphics editor at The Review, he applied.

"I thought 'this would be cool,'" he says, "even though at the time, I had no journalism experience and no art experience."

When Tse joined The Review in the fall of 1989, the paper was facing many design and presentation issues as it changed from a tabloid to a broadsheet format.

"I poured a lot of time into The Review," Tse says. "The people there became a family to me, just like the people in the skating program."

While at The Review, Tse received five national awards for layout and design in competitions sponsored by the University of Missouri School of Journalism. During the 1991-92 academic year, when Tse served as the paper's executive editor, The Review won its first-ever Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press.

Before completing a degree at the University, Tse took a job as a graphics artist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He had become familiar with that newspaper's editorial and graphics staff when his friend Rich Jones, AS '93, served an internship there. The two shared an apartment across from the Inquirer building, and Tse says they shared the same lifestyle, filling their apartment with stacks of newspapers and books. (Today, Jones covers the state of New Jersey for The New York Times, and the two friends stay in touch.)

Philadelphia also was where Tse met his wife. Tomoeh, a former competitive skater from Japan, at a meeting of the Asian American Journalists Association.

A graduate of Stanford University, Tomoeh is a general assignment reporter for Newsday, covering issues from immigration to the environment.

Moving to the Big Apple

Tse moved to the Big Apple, joining the staff of The New York Times, in 1995. His assignments at The Times have ranged from redesigning the paper's weather page to providing graphics coverage of the U.S. elections and the release of data from the 2000 census. Tse also took a year's leave of absence to complete his bachelor's degree in urban studies at Cleveland State University in 2003.

While he has reported on many complicated and interesting issues for The Times, Tse says none was as challenging as a request from the paper that he go to Iraq and cover the war there as a graphics editor.

In the spring, Tse shared these experiences in Iraq with UD journalism students from Ben Yagoda's E308 "Reporter's Practicum" and Dennis Jackson's E407 "Advanced Reporting" classes.

Tse told his audience that, before traveling to Iraq, he had to spend a week in England in a special camp, where he joined other journalists and British contractors headed to rebuild the war-torn country.

At the training sessions, which he describes as realistic-looking simulations, the journalists were taught how to recognize land mines and bombs and were warned not to pick up any strange-looking material while walking around Iraq.

"This was a really good way to force you to think about whether or not you really wanted to be doing this," Tse says. "It also made you reach deep down in yourself. It really was a tough week."

Home for the eight Times staffers and their Iraqi support staff was a sandbag-ringed building in Baghdad, not far from the Tigris River, Tse says. He also notes that, while parts of Baghdad resembled any other city, with people going to their jobs and running errands, there also were American soldiers driving by in armored vehicles and U.S. Army tanks standing guard at gas stations and other locations.

His job in Iraq, Tse says, was just like that of any other reporter--to gather and synthesize information and decide how to best present it to readers.

"When you stay out in the field, you develop a sense of geography and chronology," Tse says. "We also would get detailed information from the U.S. military from which we would put together a timeline of events."

The biggest story during Tse's Iraqi assignment was the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who was found hiding in a hole in the ground about nine miles from his hometown of Tikrit on Dec. 13, 2003.

Tse says the greatest challenge that he and his colleague Ed Wong, also a graphics editor from The Times, faced was trying to convert information presented by the military into comprehensible information that editors could use to create graphic images for the paper's next edition. The biggest surprise, Tse says, was that when he and Wong actually were able to visit the site of the hiding hole, they found that the situation was much different from the conceptualizations that were based on information supplied by the military.

"The hole was not 'L'-shaped," Tse says, "but shaped like a 'T.' And, the hideout was in a big field rather than inside some compound walls.

"We only found this out because we were there," Tse says. "The second graphic that we did differed widely from the one based on the original information that the military gave us. This is important because my duty is to make things accurate."

Although certain job skills, like reporting from

a war zone, can only be learned by experience, Tse says that UD's journalism program and working at The Review provided a strong basis on which to build his current career.

One of the requirements for success in any field, Tse says, is having a passion for what you do. "It's hard for me to say how great it is to be doing a job that I love so much. This is something that I am very thankful for."

Although he no longer competes on the ice, Tse says he and Tomoeh go skating a couple of times a year. "When we go skating in Central Park, which is usually where we go, we often see at least one person with whom I used to skate," he says.

--Jerry Rhodes, AS '04