Swarthmore’s War News Radio has once again been named among the most-licensed producer groups by the Public Radio Exchange. The merit is well-deserved, as the weekly program, which continues to inform listeners across the world on the current situation in Iraq, reaches its three year mark this month.
Since its launch, War News Radio has received much recognition and praise, including nods from the New York Times, NPR, and the BBC, for its trained perspective and in-depth reporting on general as well as rarely mentioned issues in Iraq.
Early on, WNR set itself apart in its coverage of human interest stories as student staffers reached out to Iraqis over the phone to learn more about the war’s effect on the general citizenry. In recent times, War News Radio has really become an informative outlet for listeners as the war becomes more of a second-tier story in the national media.
Senior producer and co-anchor of the show Jess Engebretson ’09 believes War News Radio has become all the more important now that media coverage has fallen off. “Half a year ago, you could read the Washington Post and always have some mention of Iraq. That’s not the case today. Things always go up and down in terms of how much news there is, but our focus is there.”
Staffers keep up to date with various domestic and international news sources, scouring Iraqi papers, blogs, and other writings in an attempt to find information and contacts that are close to what’s happening on the ground. Engebretson is quick to note that newly-appointed director of the show, Ayub Nuri, who is fluent in Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi, has greatly facilitated WNR’s ability to reach people outside of the English-speaking elite within Baghdad.
Engebretson also says that the group has also changed the format of the show slightly this semester. “Instead of a show consisting of several different segments, we are now trying to produce pieces focused on answering a particular question.” Last week’s show, for example, was focused on local politics in Iraq. Various pieces examine different aspects of the central issue. “Each segment intends to give the listener a crash course on the key things that are going on in Iraq from many viewpoints. So we might look at one provincial case study in particular or talk more generally with an NGO.”
Overall, feedback for WNR has been positive and supportive. Hostile sentiments towards American policy are often encountered when reporting on the war, but Engebretson explains that, in general, people, especially Iraqis, are happy to contribute to the show, “finding it gratifying just to be asked, to know that someone cares despite so much complexity.” Weekly WNR broadcasts are released on Fridays and can be caught online at www.warnewsradio.org.