Iraqi Journalist Ayub Nuri
Joins Swarthmore's War News Radio
This September, Ayub Nuri, an Iraqi journalist with extensive experience working for Western media, joined Swarthmore College's student-run War News Radio (WNR), now carried by over 50 stations around the country. As WNR's journalist-in-residence, Nuri helps students report and produce the weekly 29-minute program that has covered the conflict in Iraq since 2005. The program expanded to include Afghanistan last year.
"Our goal at War News Radio is to go beyond the regular news coverage and shed a light on the daily life of Iraqis and Afghans as they struggle to survive," Nuri says. "We call people in those countries every day in order to bring voices that are rarely heard to American audiences."
Born in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja and trained as a teacher, Nuri found he could better support himself in Iraq by working as a translator and "fixer" for Western journalists in his country. After the war began in 2003, he ultimately reported and contributed to stories for the BBC World Service, Public Radio International's "The World," and several other radio and TV stations in Europe and the U.S. Nuri recently wrote a personal essay about joining WNR.
After friends encouraged Nuri to study in the U.S., he applied and received a scholarship to attend Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. During his studies, he continued to write and placed op-eds in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and also wrote a feature about his work as a fixer for the New York Times Magazine.
Nuri says his transition to serving as a mentor to student journalists covering the conflict in his home country is a natural one given his teaching background and his more recent experiences as a journalist and translator. "For me, this is an opportunity to share with the students my knowledge of Iraq and of a people's life in wartime," he says.
Swarthmore students also see distinct advantages of working with someone who has deep connections to Iraq on both personal and professional fronts.
"It is almost unbelievable to have such a unique opportunity to work with a radio journalist who has reported extensively in Iraq," says Hansi Lo Wang '09, a War News Radio senior producer. "Ayub has brought our program, which is based on the idea of reporting from outside of the war zone, closer to the situation in ways we never thought would be possible. We are all so excited to work with him."
WNR also affords Swarthmore students the opportunity to earn academic credit for their work on the program, something professor of history and WNR faculty adviser Marjorie Murphy says is critical. "Their work ties history, political science, and media studies into one academic endeavor," she says. "It brings an intense realism to the learning environment, and the students really come into themselves before graduation."
Their work on the show also allows students to effectively communicate the material they learn in their classes to a wider public and to translate academic thinking to non-academic contexts. "Ideally, that has a reciprocal effect on their academic work," says Timothy Burke, associate professor of history. "It helps them critically evaluate the nature of academic knowledge, both its strengths and its limitations. The program is also obviously a welcome addition to media coverage of the most important story of our times."
WNR's latest show contains features on Iraq's former soldiers, the plight of Iraqi refugees in Syria, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Highlights from this summer's programs include examinations of the survival tactics of interpreters in Iraq, the challenges facing Iraqi journalists who choose to stay, and how a surge in Shi'a apocalyptic belief is changing the politics of mosque bombings in the country. The program, now in its third year, is broadcast weekly over the Internet in streaming audio from www.warnewsradio.org. It is available through iTunes and is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange in high-quality broadcast format. Podcasts are also available on the show's Web site.
War News Radio is the brainchild of David Gelber, a 1963 Swarthmore graduate and current Swarthmore board member who is a producer for CBS's "60 Minutes." Gelber was inspired by a similar radio program on Vietnam that aired on Pacifica Radio in the early 1970s.
Nuri succeeds veteran broadcast journalist Marty Goldensohn, who worked closely with Swarthmore students almost from the show's inception until this past June. With extensive contacts in broadcast media, Goldensohn is widely credited with having expanded WNR's listener base during its formative years.