Columnist to Discuss Covering the World
Rubin ’65, popular writer of the Worldview column
in the Philadelphia Inquirer, is among the nation’s
most distinguished commentators on foreign affairs, with
extensive experience in the Middle East, about which she
has written for more than 30 years. Rubin was a finalist
for the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for her columns on the Israel-Palestine
Rubin will visit Smith on
Monday, February 23, to present two talks. At noon in Campus
Center 205, Rubin will offer her insights on Careers in
Journalism as part of a Career Development Office series.
And from 7:30 to 9 p.m., Rubin will give a lecture, “Covering
the Middle East,” for the Working Writers series,
in Neilson Browsing Room.
Meanwhile, Rubin responded
to questions about her work for the Gate.
has drawn you during your career to your beat of imparting
news from the world’s trouble spots?
I've always been interested in the Middle East, since I was
at Smith. And that region continually seems to contain some
of the world's most troubling security problems. But
beyond that, I'm interested in writing about the areas that
are most crucial to American security interests. In the 1980s
and early 1990s I spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe and
the Soviet Union, and then Russia. And now I'm looking to
get to know South Asia and Afghanistan better. As a columnist
who writes on foreign affairs, and on what U.S. leaders should
do, I feel that I should have first-hand knowledge about
the regions of most concern to our leaders and to us.
Gate: Do you believe,
or have you seen, that your reporting can have impact,
positively or negatively, on the conflicts of the people
you report about?
TR: It's hard
to tell if my reporting has specific impact. I'm aiming to
reach readers in Middle America and help them understand
what is going on in troubled regions. But I find that the
columns that are most likely to have a measurable impact
are those that detail specific people or situations where
readers can actually try to do something to change the circumstances
that I've written about. For example, when I wrote about
the lack of Kevlar plates in U.S. soldiers' body armor, or
when I wrote (early on) about the efforts of Greg Mortenson,
author of Three Cups of Tea, to raise money to build
girls' schools in Pakistan, readers were eager to write
letters, or give money to work on those specific issues.
When I write about the bigger picture, it is impossible
to calculate any specific impact.
Gate: Do you find yourself becoming
emotionally involved in the troubles of the people about
whom you report?
TR: Over the past five years, when I have
traveled repeatedly to Iraq, I have become emotionally
involved in the troubles of many of the people I've written
about, especially those who have worked for Americans and
been endangered by it. It is impossible not to feel responsibility
for a country that has gone through a new kind of hell
as a result of U.S. actions.
Gate: As a visitor to some of
the globe’s most violent and troubled hotspots, how
do you manage the danger of your surroundings while focusing
on reporting the news?
TR: You try
to manage the danger by talking to your colleagues, especially
those who are based in trouble spots—both local journalists and expats—and
following their advice, as best you can, on what to do
and what not to do.
Gate: What is the most frustrating
long-term situation on which you’ve reported?
TR: Israel-Palestine is definitely the
most frustrating because I have been covering that story
for 30 years and have watched both sides come incredibly
close to peace, and then watched those opportunities get
lost through mistakes, or the efforts of spoilers, on both
Gate: Of all the places you’ve
lived and visited, to where would you most want to return?
TR: I would
like to be able to take my husband to Iraq if it ever got
peaceful. I would like to revisit Prague and Warsaw, where
I have not spent time since the early '90s. I love traveling around England,
where I went to graduate school and got my first job—but
I haven't had the chance to do that for years. And I want
to spend more time in India. I know I will get to
spend more time in China, which is so wedded in many ways
to the United States, so I don't need to include that on
my wish list.
Gate: What influence, if any, has your time at Smith
had on your career?
TR: My adviser at Smith, the late Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod,
first got me interested in the Israel-Palestine issue, which turned out to
be the subject that I have covered for most of my career.