Q&A: Martha Raddatz

ABC News correspondent says news orgs must overcome viewer apathy, Afghan people's skepticism

While ABC News recently announced that it would expand its partnership with the BBC to cover breaking news in Iraq, the network is still spending resources in the region. ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz has been to Afghanistan three times since November. She returned from her most recent trip on Jan. 19.

Her reports for ABC News will air the week of Feb. 9, and will include results of a new poll conducted with the BBC and German network ARD that examines Afghan attitudes toward the U. S. military and their own government. Raddatz talks to B&C Programming Editor Marisa Guthrie about Afghans' growing disillusionment, as well as the challenges of covering foreign news.

Has the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Karzai government's inability or unwillingness to contain them turned public sentiment against the government?

Yes, that's so obvious in the poll that not only is their confidence in the U.S. going, but also in their own government. I mean, it's just plummeting. I actually went out with some of the pollsters, and these are unbelievably brave people to run around doing polls, but to see the downturn and how people perceive us is really stunning.

Does foreign news get harderto do in the current economicenvironment?

I think you have to make smart decisions. And honestly, I'm not trying to say, “Oh, aren't we great.” But I think we're making smart decisions. If your budget for foreign travel is different than it was before, you make decisions about what's important. That's what we're trying to do. Afghanistan is hugely important. Pakistan is hugely important. There has not been a time where I have said, “I think we really need to go to these places” and we haven't done it.

Are Americans tuning out foreign news because things in this country are so dire?

I think you need to find a way to tell stories that people want to hear. It would be easy for a news organization to say, “Oh, people are tired of it, let's not cover it.” People need to know this stuff, and whether they're tired of it or not, you need to shake them and say, “Look, this is really important, this does have a great impact on our country, on our economy, on everything we're doing.“

When you’re embedded with the U.S. military, do you get your own tent?

Nope. You sleep with strange men or with your male producer. You’re literally just thrown into a tent. They don’t give you anything to sleep on. I’m pretty good at this by now. I bring a little silk sleeping bag that I bought in Vietnam, and you can pretend you have silk sheets. It folds up to the size of a handbag and it’s pink. It’s just perfect.
I always joke with the photographers. I just choose guys, when we go on embeds, based on whether they snore or not. It’s pretty Spartan. You have a female shower trailer and a male shower trailer, and that’s pretty much it.

At least there’s a female shower. But you’re always completely outnumbered by the men?
Yes, you are. I don’t really think about that anymore; you just have to have a sense of humor about it.
The military sense of humor can be a little coarse, I imagine.

My husband can always tell when I’ve been with soldiers because my language goes down the tubes.


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