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International journalist Robin Wright says career was a ‘total accident’ ahead of talk in St. Louis

St. Louis Speakers Series

From revolutions to war zones, journalist and author Robin Wright has covered many massive moments in world history – all without a team by her side or a helmet on her head. She’s reported from 140 countries spanning across six continents.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Lara Hamdan talked with Wright about her career and upcoming talk in St. Louis on Jan. 23 as part of the St. Louis Speakers Series. There she will talk about her expertise in Middle East issues and share her insights into the region.

Q: What stories are the most memorable to you?

A: I’ve covered every Middle East war, uprising and revolution since 1973. I’ve witnessed some of the great political transitions, whether it’s the end of communism in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. I was in Soweto, South Africa for the first black mass uprising in 1976 and went back to watch Nelson Mandela walk to freedom 14 years later. I’ve been very lucky in being able to witness the great moments of history in my life, I have traveled with every president since Jimmy Carter and almost every secretary of state since Henry Kissinger.

Q: What led you to start a career in journalism?

A: Total accident. My father had only girls and he loved sports and I, as the oldest child, was swept to every football, basketball, baseball game my father wanted to go to. When I went to college I thought, as a joke, I would join the student paper. I had no interest in journalism and wrote one article on sports just to get back at my dad. And of course the joke was on me. I spent the rest of my life covering the entire world.

Q: What advice do you have for women journalists wanting to enter foreign affairs reporting?

A: Go for it.  Don't let anybody stand in your way. I think women correspondents always believed they had to work harder, do more, and endanger their lives more to prove that they were just equals. And I think that we've proven ourselves. When I went to Africa in the 1970s, there were 106 members of the foreign press corps and 105 of them were boys and it was very hard to try to prove my bona fides as a woman that I could cover any political crisis any war zone as well as they could. And I’m very proud of the fact that there are a growing number today of foreign correspondent who are female.

Q: With a decline in foreign news bureaus, how important are they to keep?

A: I think they’re vital. We all like to know what's happening politically in the United States but remember the vast majority of the world's population is elsewhere. And we don't have a great knowledge, I mean when you think about how large China is, and that we're lucky if a major paper has one correspondent there to cover more than a billion people, same with India. These areas are the major security challenges in a globalizing world; major economic challenges in a globalizing world are elsewhere. And we are decreasingly capable of understanding or integrating because of the level of our knowledge and I think that's a real pity.

Listen to the full discussion:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.