News

Illustration by Ileana Soon

Students interviewed some of the world’s top terrorism reporters about their work.

News reports that Boko Haram extremists took more than 200 schoolgirls hostage in northeastern Nigeria shocked the world’s conscience in April 2014. For reporters, it renewed questions — ethical and practical — about how to report responsibly on terrorism.

There are well-worn guidelines built from decades of experience for reporters covering war, but there’s very little guidance about how to cover terorrism, said journalism and mathematics major Victoria Davis, ’20.

Davis learned about this gap as part of her introduction to a journalism class project that culminated in Reporting Terror, a first-of-its-kind resource that combines student interviews of reporters who cover terrorism with analysis of the issues that the interviews raise. Interviewees include leading journalists, such as Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times and Graeme Wood of The Atlantic.

Davis found herself interviewing Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida via Skype at 4 a.m. while he was self-exiled in Dubai and former Wall Street Journal West Africa reporter Drew Hinshaw. Both covered Boko Haram extensively.

The differences between Salkida and Hinshaw “really do lay in their backgrounds,” Davis said. Hinshaw focused on victims and over time had little news to report because attacks were numbingly similar. Salkida had multiple contacts within Boko Haram, so he always had fresh news.

“I didn’t really know what I was uncovering while I was doing [the assignment],” Davis said. “The story that we found was not the one that I had expected originally.”