Anyone can tell the story of human tragedy in war. It’s harder to do a compelling story about mortgagebacked securities.” really a choice at all.” Anetta left her 9-year-old in the care of a friend, but the girl died — along with nearly 200 other children — when Russian soldiers stormed the building. “Anetta became a hostage of her own decision because now she lives with such pain, but if she had stayed behind, they could have all died,” Chilcote says. He and Anetta eventually became friends. His story about her was nominated for an Emmy Award.
y 2007, Chilcote had produced hundreds of reports on Russia’s tumultuous evolution through political upheaval and war. When Bloomberg Television offered him a job in London as a business reporter, he moved
there with his wife and their two small children, ready for a new direction. But “the story afoot,” he says, was the rise of Russia’s oligarchs. With his experience in Russia and his fluent language skill, he was tapped to interview them and “kind of introduce them to the world,” he says. Business news may lack the urgency and drama of war reporting, but Chilcote contends that’s what makes it more of a challenge. “Anyone can tell the story of human tragedy that exists in war. It’s in your face, particularly in television news,” he says. “It’s much harder to do a compelling story about mortgage-backed securities. And yet that’s what brought down the American economy in 2008.” Financial stories are “often about the pursuit of creation, or how economies work, or how a crisis can spark things,” he says. “They help us understand important ideas because we live in a geopolitical world where politics and money intersect in a huge number of ways.” When Chilcote began studying Russian at NMH, it was during the post-Cold War era when the U.S. was enamored of Russia and Russians couldn’t get enough of American capitalism, blue jeans, and music. “But then it slipped away,” he says. “I knew it because I was selling those nesting dolls and painted furniture in my mother’s store, and, all of a sudden, they stopped selling.” Now, he sees little prospect for improvement in the near future. “So many people, and the U.S. Congress, see President Trump’s relationship with Russia as suspect that irrespective of Trump’s desire to improve relations with Russia, there’s no way that he can do that.”
Chilcote covered the 2018 press conference in Helsinki where Putin said he supported Trump in the 2016 election, and where Trump, in turn, praised Putin. The Republicanled U.S. Senate responded by voting to impose greater sanctions on Russia, and to remove much of President Trump’s power to influence those sanctions. Chilcote says, “If I were to put on my analyst hat, I would say that Putin made a big mistake. Because Donald Trump is now so compromised that it’s difficult for the Russians to do anything with him.”
hat analyst hat is one that Chilcote is not quite comfortable with. As a reporter, he prefers to disseminate facts and let viewers make their own decisions — to be an objective “student of the world,” he says. “I just like to share my observations. Someday I’ll know enough to have an opinion to share. Right now I’m still learning.” Chilcote hasn’t lived in the U.S. for nearly 25 years, but having moved from Moscow to London, he says that he is slowly making his way home. He sees himself back in the U.S. someday, traversing the country much like he’s traversed the Middle East, Europe, and Russia. “Kind of like John Steinbeck and Travels With Charley, the way he traveled around with his dog, rediscovering a place,” Chilcote says. “I’m still very much a proud American. Having been outside the U.S. for so long gives me a unique perspective on what’s happening there now, and I have a huge interest in reporting on it firsthand.” [NMH]
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The Magazine of Northfield Mount Hermon