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Radio flyer (continued)

Q: Would you go there?

A: Iíve done a lot of reporting on war-crimes issues and war-crimes trials, and there was a point last year when I said to my editor, "When they put Saddam on trial, I want to go." I have a young child now, a three-year-old daughter, and I havenít traveled much since she was born, but I do feel ready to travel again, in perhaps smaller doses than I used to. I guess I feel some trepidation about going to Iraq just in the sense that I havenít been there all along. I think about someone like Anne Garrels or Quill Lawrence or Jennifer Glass from our program, who have been in and out of there since the very beginning, since before the war, and thereís just a feeling of being up to speed and knowing your whereabouts and being savvy about the lay of the land. It would feel hard. I definitely wouldnít do it lightly. But I am fascinated by it.

It feels like there are so many places where we need good reporting. I guess what I can say about the shape that my career has taken is that I was sort of on a path to really being out there in the field a lot, and I loved it ó I loved the adrenaline of it, and I loved the adventure of it and the intellectual challenge of it, and the fact that these were, to me, burning issues that needed good reporting. And I still believe that, and I have the utmost admiration for my colleagues who are out there every day, but I also wonder if it is really for me, that life. I have a partner and a child here, and a real life here, and Iíve had the luxury, in the time that I havenít been in the field, to really look at foreign-policy issues in a different way, which has been much more about analysis and reading history and trying to put together the strands of how things work. And I have to say, Iím almost as fascinated by that now as anything else. I think theyíre equally important. Theyíre different, and we need both of them. The lesson from the Iraq series is that powerful countries in pursuit of their own national interests do all kinds of things that look sensible at the time that they do them, and they have these incredible unintended consequences. Itís agonizing sometimes, to look back at the history. Iím by no means a historian, but itís great to have a job where I can do contemporary reporting, and then take a few months and go and dig around and look at the history of something.

Q: Whatís next, after your Iran series?

A: I can tell you that the story that Iíve felt that Iíve neglected in the last year has been Darfur. We did some early reporting on it, and I am proud that our program was one of the first to see what was happening and to air interviews with people saying, look, this is ethnic cleansing; this is horrific; weíre not paying attention because weíre paying attention to Iraq. Weíve covered it pretty consistently since, but itís amazing to me that something like this could again unfold in the same patterns and the same rhetoric. Itís just so clear that we as a world have no idea how to cope with it. We have no idea how to stop genocide. Or maybe we do have lots of ideas, but [itís hard] to actually get countries to act in time to stop that kind of slaughter. Itís become a cliché that we say "never again," but we let it happen again. It does disturb me. I think thereís a lot more reporting to be done on Darfur. Again, thereís this split: we need the reporting on the ground, absolutely. But we need a lot more reporting digging under the Security Council, Washington, Khartoum, to figure out the dynamics that allow something like this to continue to go on.

So that may be the next thing; who knows? Iím definitely itching to get my tape recorder and get back out and talk to real people. But I canít say that I know exactly what itís going to be.

Q: How have opportunities for women in radio changed in the years that youíve been in this business?

A: In radio, Iím not so sure that the opportunities havenít always been pretty good. Or certainly public radio; I donít know that much about commercial radio, but I feel like I grew up listening to the voices of women. Maybe thereís more opportunity to get out there and be in these war zones. Thereís certainly a much higher percentage of female war correspondents. Iíd be nervous to go and do a schematic diagram of management in radio; I suspect itís probably still male-heavy. But I donít know. I tell you, though, the place that I notice gender stuff is just what we air. I feel like as a show, we have a very contemporary sound, but for whatever reasons, it seems to me that we interview substantially more men than women. And whether thatís about the foreign-policy field, the people in power who we need to interview because they need to be accountable, and there are still more men in high positions in government and things like that, I donít know. But it occurs to me in my own reporting; Iíll often think, wow, I just interviewed five men for that story. I think probably people need to put their heads together to be smarter about why that happens and where you can change it, and still be doing the work that you want to do. Because it doesnít make sense.

Q: How has being a mother affected your work, aside from the fact that you havenít wanted to be away as much?

A: Number one, Iíve been aware of how much I love what I do, and I think thatís heightened because your time becomes so much more precious. So many people have those conversations ó "I wonder if Iíll still want to work when the baby comes." And Iíve been so aware, since Annie was born, that I love her to death, I love being with her, I want to spend lots and lots of time with her, but I definitely want to keep doing this. And itís nice. Itís a kind of heightened sense of, life is short, time is precious, I love this work, I love my kid. So thatís good.

And the other thing is just a sense of definitely wanting to be closer to home, or to go on trips and come back. I went back to Kosovo in March, and just landed in the middle of the worst violence in five years, riots and craziness, and the airport was shut and I thought I wouldnít get out, and I have to say, it felt different. It wasnít even so much scarier; it just seemed like before Annie, I wouldíve just been in it and reporting it and whatever happened, happened. Whereas this time, I had a sense of the distance between us, and wanting to get home to her. Danger just suddenly makes you want to be right next to your kid.

Tamara Wieder can be reached at twieder[a]phx.com

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Issue Date: October 22 - 28, 2004
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