Jill McGivering: Being a foreign correspondent

For baby Samina, Jill McGivering might have been a savior during the 2010 Pakistan flooding.

While on her assignment, McGivering made an effort to request a doctor she interviewed to go visit the newborn baby whose life was to end before it started.

It seemed that Samina’s family’s prayers were answered. But for McGivering, a series of questions on ethics and ethical reporting followed.

“You have to make decisions as a journalist and a human being,” she said talking to the international journalism students at University of Westminster today.

“Before that summer, I wouldn’t have intervened. But looking back, that was a natural thing to do.”

A graduate in English, McGivering said she didn’t decide to become a journalist.

“I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a path,” she said.

But without no plan and a path, she has indeed come a long way. Having worked with the BBC for 20 years now, McGivering has covered the US, Asia and more importantly Afghanistan.

Being a foreign correspondent isn’t easy. Add Afghanistan to that. And being a woman certainly doesn’t make it easier. But McGivering, despite the challenges, has established herself as a successful foreign correspondents.

“I was very scared,” she says of her first assignment in 2001. “It would be dangerous if you weren’t afraid.”

Being a woman in Afghanistan though posed challenges, McGivering says it also benefited her. According to her, it was easier talking to women as they opened up to another woman.

“It’s difficult for male journalists to talk to women,” she says.

“So I made a choice to go for those stories,” she speaks of stories delving on women’s issues that weren’t visible in the mainstream media.

But doing these stories is only a means of giving a visibility to the issues, and not helping each and every person one comes across during the assignments, she said.

“I don’t think journalists are aid workers trying to get food and water,” she said. “We’re trying to bring attention.”

And through her stories,  McGivering has just been doing that, and she plans on continuing reporting on such issues.

She talked about the “adrenaline rush” and “intensity” of reporting from places like Afghanistan and added that one could be “addicted to the whole process.”

But years after reporting from the frontline, McGivering said she is still scared–and even more scared–for she has seen and experienced it all.

“I am more conscious of what might happen,” she said.

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