Jim Ryerson

Biography

Jim Ryerson is the founder and owner of Jim Ryerson Productions and Travelingman Films, a motion picture, television, and corporate video production company based in Los Angeles. Over the past 12 years, he has worked as a documentary film producer in Cuba, which he has visited more than 30 times.

Jim is a veteran of radio and television news reporting. As one of Californian‘s most visible television reporters, he received the Los Angeles Press Club Best Individual Reporting Award, and was part of several Emmy Award winning newscasts, and interviewed all of the living Presidents of the United States.

A native of Chicago, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Illinois, studied for his Master of Arts degree at Arizona State University, and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross in Orange County for 20 years, and received the Clara Barton Award, the organization’s highest honor, for volunteer service. He is a lifetime physical fitness advocate, as a distance runner and boxer for 10 years at a professional gym.

Smashwords Interview

Why did you first start writing?
In the late 1960’s there was this little matter of the Vietnam War. I joined the Air Force and for four years kept the Viet Cong from coming across the Mexican border and over-running my Texas Air Base. Since all the fighting was going on 9000 miles away, I had plenty of time which I filled by doing lots of reading and taking courses off base at the local college. One of the teachers was the news director at a local radio station, and he became my mentor. He was a great story teller, and so I decided that’s what I wanted to do – tell stories.

When I got out of the service I went back home to Chicago and finished my degree in Radio and TV at the University of Illinois. I went on to a career in broadcast journalism that included being part of several Emmy Award winning newscasts; having the opportunity to interview all of the living U.S. Presidents, and finally becoming a documentary filmmaker.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In 1998 I read an article about traveling to Cuba through Mexico. The writer made it seem like a fun, unusual, and safe place, but it was illegal for Americans to visit. I’ve been somewhat of a contrarian most of my life, so when I heard that going to Cuba was prohibited, but that people were going anyway, I decided to check it out. And, as a journalist, the travel ban didn’t apply to me.

That first ten day trip changed my life. I experienced an island which was visibly run down, but still had a sense of history and elegance; I met people being paid less than a dollar a day who proudly maintained their culture and dignity. American cars from the 50’s served as taxis, pieced together with whatever these resourceful Cubans could find, and that was just the start of understanding just how creative they had to be to survive.

It was a hard life, and Cubans would gladly tell you about their problems, but there was something else. Amid the challenges of everyday life, they were essentially a happy people. They complained about their government, but it was their government, and not something foisted upon them by the United States, or Spain, or Great Britain. And the “Communist Hell Hole” propaganda coming out of Miami was just that – propaganda.

That was also during the time that Elian Gonzalez was being held in Florida. As a journalist, I saw firsthand the lies being told about Cuba. The stories coming out of Miami saying that children in Cuba were wards of the state and that their parents had no rights were ridiculous. So I decided to tell the stories of the Cuba I saw, the people I met, and what was really going on down there.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Jim Ryerson online


Books

Swimming To Guantanamo - From Elian to Obama A Decade in Cuba under the U.S. Embargo
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 44,890. Language: English. Published: February 25, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » Essays & Travelogues
Under a U.S. trade embargo imposed half a century ago, U.S. citizens are barred from traveling to Cuba. As a journalist, I began visiting Cuba in 1998 and during my more than 35 visits I’ve met hundreds of Cubans who have graciously shared their lives, music, food, culture and created my passion to tell their stories. In writing these stories, I’ve tried to counteract some of the false impressions

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