Barry Petersen has been called one of CBS News' most experienced correspondents, having reported on everything from wars and natural disasters to Paris fashions, Welsh choirs and the return of American Jazz to Shanghai, China. His stories have been datelined from virtually every continent in a career that spans more than three decades.
He has interviewed the famous and the infamous, including Hollywood stars Jimmy Stewart, Bill Cosby, Pierce Brosnan and Sir Anthony Hopkins, leaders of the Bosnian war who were later tried as war criminals, and the President of the South Seas nation of Kiribati, who showed up for the interview barefooted.
Petersen's first book, Jan's Story: Love lost to the long goodbye of Alzheimer's was published in June 2010. Jan's Story is about the struggle he shared with his wife, Jan Chorlton, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2005, and is now in an assisted living facility. Jan was also a CBS News journalist, reporting from both Japan and the former Soviet Union for CBS Radio, CBS SUNDAY MORNING and the “CBS Weekend News.”
Petersen is currently based in Denver, Colo., where he reports for the CBS EVENING NEWS and CBS SUNDAY MORNING. Until September 2009, he was based in both the CBS News Tokyo and Beijing Bureaus, commuting between and living in both cities. Petersen returned to Asia in 1985 after almost five years in the London Bureau (1991-1995). Prior to that, he was CBS News' Moscow Bureau Chief and Correspondent (1988-1990). His first Tokyo posting was 1986-1988. His was hired by CBS News in 1978, joining the Los Angeles Bureau and then later the San Francisco Bureau.
He has been embedded with U.S. soldiers in Iraq, reported on the U.S. military's Operation Restore Hope aimed at easing the famine in Somalia, rode out on a tank with Soviet troops retreating from Afghanistan in a segment later featured in the movie “Charlie Wilson's War,” and his coverage of the Bosnian war won an Emmy award for “The Siege of Sarajevo” on CBS SUNDAY MORNING.
He reported from inside the Lithuanian Parliament the night it voted to become the first Republic to declare independence from the then Soviet Union, and covered pro-democracy rallies from the Ukraine to Red Square. He did stories from Moscow, Cuba, Malta and Washington, D.C., on Mikhail Gorbachev's summit meetings with world leaders, including U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and from Beijing on Gorbachev's trip and the historic simultaneous democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square.
After returning to Asia, Petersen was the first American television journalist allowed to report from inside a courtroom in Communist China, and was among the first on the scene of the Asian tsunami of 2005, returning to both Thailand and Indonesia several times to follow-up on the progress of relief efforts. From Nepal, he did a story on a young American boy believed to be a reincarnated Buddhist monk studying in Katmandu. He has also covered the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan (1998), the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia (2000) and Beijing, China (2008) for CBS News and Sports.
While based in San Francisco, Petersen did the first network news report on a then-new disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Petersen's awards include an Emmy for a 1996 series for the CBS EVENING NEWS on American-adopted Vietnamese orphans who were returning to visit their homeland for the first time. Petersen was part of the CBS News team covering the student uprising and government crackdown in Tiananmen Square that was honored with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a George Foster Peabody Award. He won the 1999 New York Festivals International Radio Awards “World Gold Medal” for his coverage of the Indonesian riots, and an Edward R. Murrow award for sports writing in 2002. In 2009 he was honored for his body of work by the Asian American Journalist Association.
Prior to joining CBS News, Petersen worked for WCCO-TV, the CBS owned station in Minneapolis (1974-1978), where he was a reporter, a moderator of “Newsmaker,” a weekly interview show, and anchor of “The Saturday Weekend Report.” He also worked for WITI-TV Milwaukee as an award-winning investigative reporter (1972-2974). Before that, Petersen was a general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal (1971-2972) and a stringer for Time magazine.
Born in Norfolk, Va., he was graduated from Northwestern University in 1970 with a B.S. and in 1972 with an M.S. degree in journalism. He has two daughters who live in Denver.