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Alice Fordham joins KUNM News after stints in Middle East and Latin America

Alice Fordham reporting in Babylon, Iraq, in 2021.
Aya Salih
Alice Fordham reporting in Babylon, Iraq, in 2021.

Listeners have been hearing a new voice from the KUNM newsroom over the last few weeks. Reporter Alice Fordham’s nearly two-decade journalism career took her around the world before bringing her to New Mexico.

ALICE FORDHAM: As you can hear, I'm British. I grew up in the UK. My first real job was as the news assistant on the international news desk of the London Times. I think that my contact with international news was just so exciting, and broadened my horizons, that I really wanted to go out and about in the world. When I was about 25, I did an Arabic language course in the American University of Beirut, and quit my job and never went back. I sort of woke up one day, and I'd been in the Middle East nine years. If I have an expertise in that region, it's probably Iraq. I started off working for the London Times covering Iraq. The British military were just withdrawing, but the American military was there for many years subsequently. I also spent a lot of time in Syria, and I was a North Africa correspondent for a while in the wake of the Arab Spring. And then later on, I moved from print into radio when I was hired to work for NPR as their Beirut correspondent, and I ended up covering a lot of the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

KUNM: How did you end up in New Mexico after everything that you did?

FORDHAM: There had been an enormous amount to cover, and it was a huge privilege, and I am so proud of the work that I did. But it was exhausting, and I needed a break, and I needed to do something different. And I was keen to see a bit of the rest of the world. I ended up spending time in Mexico, I studied Spanish there. And then, later on, I did a reporting fellowship with the IWMF – the International Women's Media Foundation, which is a wonderful organization – and I was able to go to Guatemala, and I did some reporting on migration there, and also in Colombia later on. And I ended up around here because I was doing some reporting in Ciudad Juárez and in El Paso and got to know New Mexico, at the time traveling around for fun, and then became kind of really intrigued by it.

KUNM: And KUNM listeners have been hearing your voice over the last couple of weeks since you started. What kind of stories can listeners expect to hear from you going forward?

FORDHAM: Well, I definitely want to cover as many topics as possible. I have always loved stories that bring the historical and cultural context of news events alive for people and, my goodness, is New Mexico a good place to do that kind of work.

KUNM: How would you say you approach that storytelling work?

FORDHAM: What I try to do – and what I find people are most able to engage with, to understand, to sympathize with – is when there's a person with a story that really exemplifies the issue. People love to hear someone's story. I love to tell someone's story. Last year, I was back in Iraq doing a little bit of work for NPR. And I think the story that most resonated with people was about this young lady who was in a camp for displaced people in Iraq who had started a choir. And she talked about why she had done that, and what she was preserving about her culture by singing in this choir. And I think that enabled people to relate to a faraway place in a way that some broader news coverage doesn't.

KUNM: Most definitely. And I think that's something that public radio can do so well. It's such an intimate craft. It can really illuminate why any of what's happening matters.

FORDHAM: Yeah. I mean, it's the right thing to do to amplify the biggest range possible of people's voices. And it's a privilege to have the opportunity to do that.

KUNM: Well, you're reporting here at KUNM is no doubt going to be quite different than the work you were doing previously, where you were reporting from war zones and covering revolutions. How do you think the experiences that you had will inform your reporting here in New Mexico?

FORDHAM: I think I have learned how important it is to do no harm in journalism. You can't let your desire to get a good story, or even to do the right thing and tell an important story, mean that you talk to interviewees in a way that is traumatic for them. You have to keep yourself safe, you have to keep your colleagues safe. I'm careful I think, basically. And the thing about reporting in wars is that the logistics are challenging, right? And anywhere where the situation is unstable. So, I think that I have learned patience and persistence in terms of getting to the places that I need to be and talking to the people that I want to talk to. So, I hope that's what I'll bring.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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