2007 Scholarship Luncheon with Martha Radditz, ABC News
February 16, 2007
“Reporting the truth,” Martha Raddatz, Chief White House correspondent for ABC News, “can be challenging. It’s not always clear-cut what the truth is.” Issues are so complex and change so rapidly, especially in areas of conflict, that even this veteran foreign correspondent is willing to admit, “One person’s truth is not another person’s truth. Sometimes, it’s obvious; other times, not at all.”
In a riveting talk to the nearly 250 people assembled for the 16th annual Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholarship Luncheon at the Yale Club, the award-winning reporter – who replaced CNN’s Anderson Cooper after he was sent to Brazil the week of the luncheon – told the sold-out crowd that her answer to divining facts in a complex world is to go to the places she covers. Even though she is a White House correspondent, Raddatz believes the best way to cover the current administration is to understand the pressures it faces, especially in the areas of national security. “It gives me the background to challenge the White House on the issues it should be challenged on, “she said. That she is often on overseas assignments has not been lost on President George Bush who, in a press briefing the same week, readily admitted that Raddatz might have the better perspective on the war in Iraq since she has been there on the ground and he has not.
As she has been on each of her dozen assignments in Iraq, Raddatz, who returned from Baghdad only four days before the luncheon, was embedded with the troops and reported that morale was better than expected, even as they face the most recent dilemma of trying to identify who the enemy is. “Insurgents? Sectarians? Sadamists?” she asked. “They have no handle on whom they’re fighting anymore.”
Her concern for American servicemen and women led her to write her first book, “The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family,” which goes on sale in March. Published by GP Putnam’s, it details the depth of pain, courage and heartbreak she discovered as she began to look at the emotional toll the war has taken on military personnel and their families in the US.
At a time when news media are closing international bureaus and cutting budgets, Raddatz said she feels an important part of her role as a reporter is to make Americans care about the news, especially international news. “I can’t just write the facts,” she said. “I have to give people a reason to care.”
She encouraged the scholarship winners to be good citizens and good family members. While being a mother and a war correspondent might have its challenges she is grateful for her family. “Don’t become one-dimensional,” she advised. Raddatz is confident in the choices she made and she gave the winners the same advice she gives her own children: to take her lead and follow their passion.
The challenge to seek out and accept the risks involved in good journalism especially resonated with the twelve 2007 OPC Foundation Scholarship winners who had just accepted their awards from various family members and close friends of those in whose names the scholarships are given (see page xx). Besides a check for $2,000, the recipients also received a year free membership in the Overseas Press Club. Reuters hosted a reception honoring past and former winners of OPC Foundation scholarships the night before the luncheon at its headquarters in Times Square. The group met with veteran foreign correspondents in a morning program before the luncheon and later toured the Associated Press headquarters in the afternoon.
As master of ceremonies, Holstein articulated the purpose of the scholarships as well as the Foundation’s mission. Recognizing that American news organizations are undergoing a profound transformation, he noted, “it is incumbent upon us, those who care about what Americans know about the world, that we identify the best and the brightest of the next generation of correspondents, and attempt to give them the incentives and the tools to go out into the world.”
The 2007 winners, seven graduate students and five undergraduate students, were selected from a pool of applicants from 65 different colleges and universities. The winners came from Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, London School of Economics, New York University, Northwestern, University of California at Berkeley, University of Southern California, University of Missouri, Vassar College, and Yale University. Three of this year’s winners also earned internships through the Foundation’s partnership relationships with Associated Press, Cambodia Daily, and Reuters. The Foundation will pay for the recipients’ travel and living expenses for one month as they work in foreign bureaus.