Getting to Know New NPR Foreign Editor Edith Chapin

May 18, 2012
Originally published on October 16, 2012 12:38 pm

This week, NPR welcomes a seasoned journalist into its newsroom: Edith Chapin. Joining NPR as the senior supervising editor of the NPR News Foreign Desk, Edith brings with her nearly 25 years of experience covering game changing national and international news events and serving as a leader among her fellow reporters.

During her fourth day on the job, Edith took a break from tracking down her team of foreign correspondents stationed overseas to talk with us about her transition to radio, her vision for NPR's international coverage and her personal experiences from life as a reporter.

What drew you to NPR?

I'm in love with news. NPR is one of barely a handful of news organizations that does serious journalism and is not completely driven by breaking news. Having the time to give context and explain the "whys" instead of just the "whats" is fantastic.

Will you miss the visuals of television journalism?

I'm actually excited. In TV you are a slave to the pictures, for better or worse. But radio is pure storytelling. Radio reporting can paint a picture. It's so intimate. The journalists really take you there and you make the movie.

What will be your focus in this role?

I'm looking forward to giving a fresh perspective from the outside. To be an editor and ask questions. I hope by asking new, different questions NPR's coverage can be made better. And to collaborate across the newsroom to provide the best journalism.

How does good international news coverage benefit Americans?

It should take away some fear. It's human nature to feel fear. But if we explain and make connections the world seems smaller and more interdependent.

In your role, you are often required to send journalists into very dangerous places. What goes through your mind during those times?

No story is worth dying for. But many stories are important and need to be told. We just need to find the right mix of allowing reporters to tell these important stories but not to be targets because of their reporting on a story.

I will have sleepless nights every night our reporters are in dangerous situations. I don't take it lightly. I've done enough reporting in war zones to be able to appreciate how hard it is for those reporters and that it's worth doing.

You were in New York on 9/11.

It was breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word. The magnitude of it took a couple of hours to sink in. When I finally left work the next day, I had to cross a check point to get to my home in Manhattan. It was only then did I realize that something really different had happened.

Professionally you can never prepare for something like this. I realized that [journalism] was really a special profession. This is why we do journalism, to tell this story.

You've been to NPR for four days now, what have you noticed so far?

It's a really friendly place. Everyone is very welcoming. And they are passionate about their jobs and also having fun.

What's the favorite place you've ever lived?

I lived in Brazil for six years as a child, very formative years. It's is a sentimental place for me, very special. Something about Brazil has just stuck with me.

What are three things you always pack in your suitcase?

Wash and dry, power plug adapters, and a spare outfit.

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