Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Beginnings, New Voices


All roads come to an end, and so have my travels with Hillary Clinton.

A lot has happened since I last updated this blog. Clinton got sick, then got a concussion, and wound up her term in office defending the State Department's response to the Benghazi crisis. On a more personal scale, I was offered an exciting new job and -- after much mulling -- decided to take it, drawing a line under a 25-year career with Reuters.

It has been hard to leave a job I enjoyed so much. The excitement of life on the road with Clinton and the State Department team made it one of the best assignments of my career, and one during which I struck up close friendships with many of my colleagues in the traveling press corps. The news on the beat was frequently deadly serious, but the reporters on the plane were among the funniest and most collegial I have ever worked with. If you have to go on frequent round-the-world road trips lots of pressure and little sleep, there are no better traveling companions.

But it was, at least for me, not the kind of life I could live indefinitely -- and the coincidence of Clinton's departure from the State Department and the new job offer made me take a new look at what might come next. I am grateful for my wonderful run at Reuters, which allowed me to do everything from cover Saddam Hussein's trial in Baghdad to interview a ship captain while motoring down an iceberg-strewn fjord above the Arctic Circle in Greenland. But I've also always thought that at some point I would do something different -- chasing "news" can be like chasing butterflies, and while each individual story can be unique and beautiful, often they are as ephemeral as a butterfly's wing.

So, on to the new challenge. I have started at the Aspen Institute, where we are launching an initiative with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the New Voices Fellowship.

This is going to be challenging, but I think it could also be a blast. We are recruiting 12 experts from Africa and other parts of the developing world, and then giving them a year's worth of training, coaching and introductions in hopes that they become frequent sources for journalists and others who think about global development. The term "thought leader" is often bandied around, and this is really an experiment to see if, with some help, thought leaders can be successfully promoted on the international stage.

We've only just started the project, and have a long way to go. But once we have our first class assembled, I will probably reconstitute this blog as a diary of what worked, and what didn't, as we seek to get our Fellows -- and their viewpoints -- out there to a broader global audience.

Until then, thanks for bearing with me and for checking in on this blog every now and then!