In April, foreign correspondent Julie McCarthy moved to Islamabad to open NPR’s first permanent bureau in Pakistan, and found herself covering its latest crisis: the Taliban's incursion into the Swat Valley, and the creation of thousands of refugees.
The move by NPR follows the expansion of the New York Times South Asia bureau, and suggests that while some media outlets are cutting back their international coverage, others see the region as too big and complex to ignore or underplay. NPR's New Delhi correspondent continues to be Phillip Reeves--see our Q&A with him, after the Mumbai attacks. The Afghanistan correspondent is Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.
Prior to the move, McCarthy (photo credit Wen Wang) was NPR’s South American correspondent based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, covered the Middle East from 2002-2005, and headed the Tokyo bureau.
McCarthy’s seemingly fearless accounts cover the impoverished and hungry, and the politically powerful and affluent. Her coverage of the Asian economic crisis in 1998 resulted in an Overseas Press Club of America Award. She's also won a Peabody.
Here is some of McCarthy’s work starting with her most recent Pakistan stories (complete list here):
- Pakistani Civilians forced to Flee Swat Valley
- U.S. surprised by Taliban's land grab in Pakistan
- Taliban Exert Influence in Pakistan
- Venezuela-Columbia Conflict Put Region on Edge
- Catholic Church Losing Ground in Latin America
- Spiraling Food Prices Buffet Poverty-Stricken Haiti
- Palestinians Await Changes in Gaza
- Hamas' Political Clout Grows
Loren Jenkins, NPR’s Senior Foreign Editor, spoke to SAJAforum about the McCarthy’s move and the new bureau:
SF: What aspects of Pakistani news will the bureau emphasize in its coverage?
LJ: We will cover all aspects of Pakistan news that we judge might be of interest to our listeners -- political news, economic news, cultural news, etc. Obviously the Obama administration has made it plain that it considers Pakistan and Afghanistan part of the same foreign policy challenge and that will be an important--but not exclusive--focus of our coverage.
SF: With the unstable safety issues for journalists in Pakistan, how will the bureau provide protection for correspondent Julie McCarthy?
LJ: We do not discuss security and safety operations of our correspondents. Suffice it to say as journalists our correspondents are often required by the exigencies of the news to operate in dangerous places, be they Kosovo, Gaza, Jerusalem, Baghdad or Kabul.
SF: Were there challenges in opening a new foreign bureau with the current economic climate?
LJ: No. NPR shifted its resources from one bureau in Latin America to be able to open a bureau in Islamabad.
SF: How do you think the new bureau will affect the coverage of Pakistan in comparison to the India bureau?
LJ: With a permanent correspondent based in Islamabad it would be safe to assume we will do more Pakistan coverage than in the past when we covered Pakistan with visiting correspondents. Since we also have permanent correspondents based in Kabul and New Delhi I would say it would balance out our South Asian coverage.