What stories are you drawn to?
Stories about the forgotten, the overlooked, the underestimated.
Where do you find your ideas?
I start with questions — often really dumb questions — and then I ask a whole bunch of people for answers. From there, a story emerges.
You have reported from around the world. Is there a reporting trip that you remember vividly?
Every trip teaches you something about that place, but also about your own country and yourself. I’ve covered 10 wars, from Sri Lanka to Liberia to Syria. I’ve tried to always tell the stories of war not through warriors, but through civilians — people like me — because in those extreme conditions, you see both what brutality human beings are capable of and also what courage. I can’t help but wonder who I might have been under those circumstances.
How has your daily routine changed during the pandemic?
Because I have a global beat, I have weird, unpredictable hours. Some weeks, I might get up at the crack of dawn to interview sources in Europe, and maybe the following week, I’m making calls in the evening to Asia. That, combined with working from home, means that I have to make time. I have to give my days some rhythm, and the one thing that forces me to order my time caring for my kid. First thing in the morning, I try to set aside five to 10 minutes for meditation. (I have a teenager, and I cover climate change. Need I say more?) I save my early evenings for uninterrupted, device-free time with my kid. During the early months of the pandemic, when she was remote-schooling and staring at her screen for absolutely everything, I cleared my deck for an aimless 30-minute walk with her every day after school. Also cooking. I cook three meals for us. That gives rhythm to my days.
How do you decompress and unwind?
Hobbies? You mean like sleep? Or helping with algebra homework? I played several instruments as a kid — I considered being a music major in college — so I fantasize about returning to music. Probably not the bassoon. My neighbors probably wouldn’t want that. The teenager usually dictates my screen time. (We have watched “Never Have I Ever” a gazillion times.) Books-wise, I’ve got N.K. Jemison and Rebecca Solnit on my night stand right now, and a book called “Doughnut Economics” that I’m reading with colleagues. My unwinding is walking. I pester friends to take walks with me, and when we can’t see each other in person, we schedule Zoom conversations with wine. I call it Zwine with Somini.