Journalist had a Dramatic Start
In his travels around the globe as a correspondent for CBS News, Seth Doane has covered stories in South America, Africa, and beautiful Bali, Indonesia. What’s better? The 1996 Harwich High School graduate is currently on a two-year assignment in Beijing, China and when the weather is nice, he bikes to the company’s news office in the city’s diplomatic region.
Before all of this traveling, though, before serving as CBS’ principal correspondent in Asia, and before winning a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast journalism, Seth, 36, was a Cape Cod kid learning the ropes of drama, production, and performance from the legendary Betty Bobp.
“Before I was a teenager, I got involved in the Harwich Junior Theatre and just found a real home there,” Seth recalls. “I can’t say enough about what the junior theatre did for me. No matter who you were, they welcomed you and found the best part of you. It was a place that really helped me grow as a person.”
Bobp, of course, founded the Harwich Junior Theatre back in 1951. A drama teacher at Wheelock College in Boston, her goal was to provide theater education opportunities for young people on Cape Cod. Today, the Harwich Junior Theatre and the company’s resident adult performing group, Harwich Winter Theatre, puts on up to 12 productions in a given year. In addition, hundreds of students take part in the organization’s various drama classes.
While he was growing up, Seth enrolled in these classes and performed in a number of junior theatre shows, including playing the leading man in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. He also had roles in “The Hobbit”, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, and “Raggedy Ann and Andy”—he was Andy! “It was a range of plays,” Seth says, “but “Romeo and Juliet” stood out. [The instructors] went through every word in that play. You just learned so much. Though the language has changed, the storylines are timeless.”
Seth says he learned many important life lessons during his time at the junior theatre—“things you don’t realize you are learning”—and he made a lot of friends along the way. He adds that ‘strike night’—when cast and crew tear down the old set and begin to install the new one—was particularly fun.
The instructors and directors were both educational and inspirational, Seth says, and he learned under the tutelage of many great ones including James Byrne, Scott Dalton, Jay Harrington, and Michele and Robert Zapple. He also praised Janice Nikula, Lisa Canto, Julie Harris, and the late Lorraine Lewis for their passion and support. “It was all a labor of love ,” Doane says. “You couldn’t pay people to care as much as these people do.”
Seth also had the opportunity to meet and work with Bobp, the organization’s founder. “Betty was a remarkable woman with such vision,” he says. “It was a thrill to work with her. I certainly saw her as a superstar and a true living legend.”
One of the junior theatre’s many benefits, Seth says, was a lot of one-on-one instruction—as well as positive feedback and encouragement. “It was just a very nurturing place,” he says. “They encouraged you to find yourself and be the best version of yourself. I can’t say enough about what the junior theatre did for me in terms of giving me a real home.”
As a student at Harwich High, Seth also got involved in the school’s TV Club at the urging of the club’s founder, Jill Mason. “She had the vision of a TV station in Harwich and started us off from scratch,” Seth says. “I doubt that I would be doing what I am today if it wasn’t for Jill.”
After high school, Seth attended the University of Southern California, and soon after graduating began working for major news outlets and reporting on important stories around the world. He has reported from Africa, India, and locations across the United States; in 2004, he won a Peabody Award for a series he put together on a humanitarian crisis in the Sudan. Working for CBS in 2010, Seth traveled to Chile to report on the 33 workers who were trapped in a mine in the Atacama Desert for 69 days—and their heroic rescue.
From his post in Beijing, Seth has covered a number of challenging and tragic stories that have occurred in Asia this past year. He reported on the November 2013 typhoon and its aftermath in the Philippines; he traveled to Kuala Lumpur to cover the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370; and in April, he was in South Korea covering the sinking of a passenger ferry and the subsequent investigation of the ship’s captain and crew. “It’s been a tough couple of months of talking to people who have lost family,” he says.
One story he worked on that did not focus on tragedy involved a unique and ‘green’ construction trend in Bali where “magnificent structures,” Seth says, “are being made out of bamboo.” What’s unique about this approach is the material used—native bamboo—is naturally sustainable. “The homes,” he says, “are sort of like fairy castles in the jungle.” This story and others Seth has worked on can be viewed at cbsnews.com.
Additional assignments have brought Seth to North Korea, too, and a week before our interview, Thailand. “We do a lot from our neck of the woods,” he says. “We’re covering all of Asia.”
For the moment, Seth says his primary interest is China and trying to understand the world’s most populous nation. “China is such an exciting place to be based,” says Seth. “You could spend your whole career here to try to understand it.” So far, he has enjoyed the experience.
When his schedule allows, Seth returns to the Cape to visit family and friends; he feels passionately about the region and maintains strong ties here. “I grew up in Harwich,” he says. “I was born in Cape Cod Hospital; my dad (Paul Doane) was from Harwich.” Seth, who worked at the Mason Jar restaurant in Harwichport growing up, is also a descendant of Deacon John Doane, one of the first settlers of the Outer Cape, and for whom the Doane Rock in Eastham is named.
Seth says he tries to get back to the Cape at least once every summer. Going forward, he wants to maintain that tradition, whether it’s soaking up the Cape Cod sun on the beach, enjoying some quality time on Nantucket Sound in the family’s boat, or perhaps taking in the latest production at the Harwich Junior Theatre.