How did you begin your career in journalism?
I began my career with a deep sense of mission. My retired military father cared a lot about was happening in the world and infused me with his deep love of the truth. He would rail whenever he heard a newspaper writer or a TV reporter inject opinion into their work, shouting, “Just give me the facts! Don’t tell me what to think.” That made a strong impression. He also loved to debate the issues of the day at the dinner table so I learned that what happens in other places in the world matters to us here in America. I got a degree in Journalism, thinking I would become a newspaperwoman. My first job was working as a waitress to pay off my student loan, but then I stumbled upon an entry level job at a little TV station in my home state of Oregon. When I discovered the power of television news, I decided to try to become a highly principled television news reporter.
I arrived at that TV station as an intern, picking up the mail and running a studio camera on the local evening news, and left as its first female news reporter, with the biggest local beat.
Where does your passion for human suffering come from, and how does it fuel the way you work?
I think we all have a passion to do something to ease human suffering. Journalism has just given me a way to do something about it. Giving voice to those who have none is the least a good reporter should do. All the suffering I have seen has only deepened my compassion.
What are some of the most memorable stories you’ve covered? Most memorable interviews?
911. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bordering Pakistan. The killing of Osama bin Laden. Genocide in Darfur. Congo. The Tsunamis in Southeast Asia and Japan. The earthquake in Haiti. I remember them all. They never leave you.
Interviewing Maya Angelou was memorable because you could not help but learn when you sat with her. Her wisdom was intelligent and rich and has stayed with me ever since the first moment I met her. Also memorable for other reasons, Pakistan’s leader Benazir Bhutto who pressed for democracy though she knew it could cause her assassination, Iran’s Presidents Ahmadinejad and Rouhani, Presidents Barak Obama and George W. Bush and Syria’s President Assad in Damascus. I’ll stop there, but the list is long.
How do you feel you’ve made a difference throughout your career?
I have aimed to be a force for good, to report truth fairly, in a manner that would respect the public and make my father proud, and to especially give voice to people who are unheard. I know I have helped people directly in many of my stories, but I leave it to the public to decide when I’m gone, whether I have made a real difference.
You’re very involved in charitable work. Would you explain your commitment to the various organizations you work with?
Well, I have contributed energy and sometimes funds to fight genocide, and stop the use of girls as child brides, increase cancer research, and help people who suffer from poverty, war and natural catastrophes. I do what I can in this busy life but don’t deserve too much credit as I have yet to do enough.
Why do I care? What happens to our human family matters. We have a chance to rise further past from our darkest fears and small ways of thinking, and emerge into our greatest potential as humans. Wouldn’t it be better to do that sooner rather than later?
Who is the person you most admire, and how has he or she shaped you personally and professionally?
My father. He taught me to be a good person. He made me curious. And he showed me that doing good for others, as best we can, is a way to achieve a valuable life.
What projects are you involved with now, and where can we see you in 5, 10, 20 years?
My projects are focused on improving the quality of journalism and the human condition. I hope years from now to feel I have contributed to both, and also to have helped inspire our next generation of journalists, who I hope will work for the public before all else. F