In the first of our summer series of exclusive interviews with top journalists, we talk to the Guardian's foreign correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Declan Walsh, about how he broke into the industry and the challenges that he faces as an international journalist.


The glamour of working as a reporter abroad holds not only an enviable goal for trainee journalists but also a wider, more vital importance to the general public. After all, if it was not for those delivering stories from the globe's most war-torn or impoverished nations, our window to the world would be significantly less clear.


Declan Walsh, the Guardian's foreign correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, is working in arguably the most politically volatile area of global politics, in which acts of terrorism are commonplace and where, since the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, the West has kept a constant nervous gaze upon.


It was, similarly to the group of students that have just finished their third year, through a Journalism degree by which Walsh began his career in the media.


"I did an MA in Journalism at Dublin City University in 1995/96, which led to a work placement at the Sunday Business Post , which later hired me on staff," Walsh told JMU Journalism. 


It was at that paper where he won an Irish national

newspaper award for Social and Campaigning

journalism, a theme he has aimed to continue

throughout more than a decade's work as a

correspondent in both Africa and the Middle East.


With Pakistan and Afghanistan ranking 151st and 147th

respectively, out of the 178 countries recognised on the

Reporters Sans Frontières Press Freedom Index (the UK

is 19th), it is fair to say that journalists working in such

enviroments face remarkable difficulty in producing news.


Less than a fortnight ago, Walsh himself wrote a piece

entitled 'Pakistan: the deadliest place to be a journalist'

following the brutal murder of investigative reporter

Saleem Shahzad. But he also admitted to facing

challenges that test journalists working in any newsroom

across the world.


"There are lots of challenges that are specific to Pakistan

related to security and so on. But in terms of myself, I

would say the main challenge is to keep coming up with

decent work, and to keep a fresh eye for material that I

know already."


As well as his role at the Guardian, Walsh has worked for the Independent and the Irish Times in addition to contributing to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Economist and a number of US news talk shows.


When asked what makes a good journalist in the 21st century, he said: "Journalism is too broad a field, with too many different specialisations, to answer this specifically. But in general I think a good journalist is curious, open-minded and fair."


And his advice to young trainee journalists hoping to follow in his footsteps? "Aim for the kind of journalism that inspires you, but don't worry if you get detoured along the way. You'll get there eventually if you really want it. And hard work will get you very, very far."

Declan Walsh talks to JMU Journalism


By Jonathan Birchall, Website Producer

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The Guardian's foreign correspondent Declan Walsh is a frequent commentator on US news talk shows