FORT WAYNE – ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz’s reporting has put her in dangerous situations in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
But she says the most frightening moment in her career came in Iran in 2010, when she and her crew were picked up by police in the midst of videotaping officers who were looking for Iranian women whose heads were not properly covered.
Officers confiscated the crew’s passports and footage and interrogated the group for several days.
In the end, the crew was allowed to leave, but Raddatz had plenty of time during the detention to consider far worse scenarios.
Raddatz, who believes it’s worth taking risks to tell important stories, delivered the third of this year’s Omnibus lectures at IPFW’s Rhinehart Music Center on Wednesday. Her talk, called “Global Hotspots from Yemen to Afghanistan and the Arab Spring In-Between” drew about 800 people.
Raddatz spoke about her experience as the senior foreign affairs correspondent at ABC News, sharing observations from her time covering the Arab Spring and the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During an afternoon event hours before her lecture, Raddatz acknowledged that American news organizations are cutting back their foreign bureaus. As a result, she said, she and her fellow foreign correspondents have had to work harder and be more discerning in the stories they cover.
But she said that she’d never had a trip request denied by ABC.
While Americans have had ample exposure to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Raddatz said there are a few international stories she feels are underreported.
In particular, she said, she’d like to see more reporting on the conflict in Syria, where the foreign press is forbidden, and on Yemen, where it’s almost too dangerous for reporters to travel. She said she would also like to see more coverage of the U.S. drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan, though the classified nature of the program makes it hard to explore.
Raddatz said the hardest part of being a foreign correspondent is balancing work and family life. Another challenge, she said, is dealing with the emotional toll of interviewing injured soldiers and others who have suffered during war.
While it’s important for journalists to be unbiased, she said they should never lose their empathy.
“If we lose that part of our humanity, I don’t think we’re good journalists,” she said.
Raddatz, who has embedded with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, said being a female foreign correspondent in a field dominated by men has both its advantages and disadvantages.
“I think we all have gifts,” she said. “In some situations it’s easier, in some situations it’s harder, and it all balances out.”
Raddatz, who has won many awards for her reporting, was named senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News in November 2008 after serving as chief White House correspondent.
In June 2006, Raddatz was the first correspondent to report that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, had been killed in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad, according to the ABC website.
Raddatz joined ABC News in January 1999 as the network’s State Department correspondent, where she covered the conflict in the Middle East and traveled to Africa, Pakistan and India with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
From 1993 to 1998, she was Pentagon correspondent for National Public Radio. Before joining NPR, Raddatz was the chief correspondent at the ABC News Boston affiliate WCVB-TV, during which time she covered several presidential campaigns and reported from the former Soviet Union, Africa, the Middle East, the Philippines and Europe.
Raddatz also is the author of “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family,” which made both the New York Times and Washington Post best-seller lists.