While working for ABC News in London, I found myself covering some of the most important stories of the twentieth century, including the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the imposition of martial law in Poland and Pope John Paul II’s visit to Britain.

As a radio correspondent for ABC, I reported on every day of the three-month long Falklands War. I also traveled to the Middle East, where I covered the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

In 1983, I traveled to Beirut to freelance for Voice of America Radio as well as for Independent Radio News in the UK. Upon returning to London, I accepted a position as an associate radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was during this time that I helped produce a six-hour radio documentary about the life of George Orwell that was subsequently released as a book, Remembering Orwell (Penguin, 1985).

While covering the Iran-Iraq War in 1985 for CBC and ABC, I became one of only a handful of western journalists ever to meet the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

As a freelancer, I continued reporting for the CBC, as well as for National Public Radio, the BBC and Deutche Welle Radio in Germany, among others. In 1985, I became the first radio journalist to report on the AIDS epidemic in Africa. My print journalism on this subject, as well as on various other topics, has appeared in several British publications, including the Sunday Times of London and The Observer.

In 1986, I accepted a job as a staff producer at Worldwide Television News, today known as Associated Press Television News. Three years later, I was named executive producer of a new service created to supply entertainment news to a variety of clients, including Entertainment Tonight and E! the entertainment channel.

Following the breakup of my first marriage in 1992, my then four-year-old son Kieran and I returned to my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, where I accepted a position teaching introduction to communications, magazine writing and television production at Memphis State University, today known as the University of Memphis. It was during this time that I met and married my present husband Tim. Eighteen months later our son Matt, who’s now in college, was born.

Since 9/11, I’ve written and spoken extensively on various aspects of the political situation in the Middle East. In 2002, while on a fact-finding mission for the World Council of Churches, I met and interviewed PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

My Early Years

Almost as soon as I could spell my name, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. Don’t ask me how or where I got the idea. All I know is that it must have had something to do with my passion for reading, which is, of course, a great foundation for anyone who wants to write.

Somewhere along the way my dream morphed into that of becoming a journalist. I liked the fact that journalists got paid to write. It was a job. A real job. How cool was that?

I was born and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where both my parents were doctors, which was unusual in that day and age. While at the University of Tennessee, I worked as a reporter and then later as editor of the college newspaper, The Daily Beacon. I also spent a semester studying in Paris, which fueled my desire to become a foreign corespondent. Upon my return I worked as an intern at my hometown newspaper, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. In fact, I happened to be working at the Commercial Appeal the day Elvis died, which taught me a lot about what happens when a story of national and even international importance breaks.

After graduating from college, I went to work as a general assignment reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and then later as the editor of the newspaper’s new weekend entertainment section.

After a couple of years at the Post-Herald, I decided to return to school to get my masters. I applied and was accepted into Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the fall of 1979.

After graduating from Columbia, I went to London in an effort to finally realize my dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Peggy Riley Thomson

In Homs in 2008, which has since been devastated by the Syrian civil war

Fortunately, within a week or two of my arrival, I landed a job in the London bureau of ABC News – operating the Telepromptr machine for ABC anchorman Peter Jennings. I didn’t mind that my first job at ABC was a relatively lowly one since it opened the door to countless other opportunities at the network.

At the end of my first summer at ABC, I turned down a job on the production desk in order to return to New York, where I’d been offered a position as a staff reporter for Adweek magazine.

Six months later, upon hearing the news of Prince Charles’s engagement to a shy, aristocratic nursery school teacher named Lady Diana Spencer, I returned to London on a vague promise of work at ABC. It was a risky move, but fortunately one that paid off. Within weeks I was working as an assignment editor on the news desk at ABC London. Not long afterwards I also began reporting for ABC Radio News.

This time I was determined to stay on in London as long as I possibly could. Still, if anyone had told me that I would end up making the British capital my home for more than twelve years I doubt whether I would have believed them.

After my son Kieran was born I put my career on hold as the difficulties in my first marriage grew. Following a protracted court case in the High Court in London, Kieran and I were allowed to return to the United States, where we were given a second chance at a happy and secure life.

Both personally and professionally, I’ve experienced some incredibly interesting as well as some incredibly difficult times. And yet nothing I’d ever experienced could have prepared me for the profound personal tragedy of losing my older son to suicide.

http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham_Post-Herald

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_News

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Jennings

http://www.adweek.com/

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Broadcasting_Corporation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell

Speaking Engagements

  • McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN, January 2006
  • Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN, 2004-2005
  • Germantown Presbyterian Church, Germantown, TN, 2002
  • Germantown United Methodist Church, Germantown, TN, 2003
  • Republican Women, Southaven, MS, 2001