Magazine article American Journalism Review

Leaving Iraq Behind: Knight Ridder's Hannah Allam Swaps Baghdad for Cairo

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Leaving Iraq Behind: Knight Ridder's Hannah Allam Swaps Baghdad for Cairo

Article excerpt

After two years in Iraq, Knight Ridder Baghdad Bureau Chief Hannah Allam is ready for a change. In January, Allam, 28, will leave a city she's grown to love to open a bureau in Egypt's capital.

Allam, an Egyptian American, will be returning to a place where she spent many summers growing up. The former St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter is excited to relocate but says it will be more challenging than Baghdad, where the story is self-evident--"you wake up, something blows up, you cover it; or you wake up, there's historic elections, and you cover those"--to Cairo, where she will cover the more fluid story of the Middle East.

AJR's Sarah Clark asked her to reflect on her experiences in Iraq, press coverage of the violence there and her plans for the new bureau in Cairo.

Q: Have there been any stories you've covered that affected you more than the others?

A: Yes, certainly. The bombings are really hard to forget.... [They] form the most lasting images because they are just so gruesome and so incomprehensible, and you can't get them out of your head.

But there are some happy moments as well. Just tonight ... we ran into a wedding party right in front of our hotel. There were drummers, a horn section, this band of musicians and the bride and groom; everyone gathered and clapped for them. It was just a beautiful moment.

Q: What are some of the accomplishments of the press in Iraq, and what are some of its limitations?

A: I think [journalists who have been in Iraq a long time] are a very courageous group of people, and they're just trying to do the best job they can under really difficult circumstances.

Of course it's disheartening when we get criticism from back home for portraying only bad news. It's frustrating. We would like to report on more of Iraq, but unfortunately the security situation is not at the point where we can travel around and talk about new schools opening or water treatment facilities. …

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