Sept. 18, 2023

S5E12: Jane Ferguson - No Ordinary Correspondent

S5E12: Jane Ferguson - No Ordinary Correspondent

Growing up in The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Jane Ferguson spent most of her life reporting on the global troubles in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and Afghanistan, reporting for CNN International, Al Jazeera, PBS Newshour, The New Yorker and other outlets, always finding the human stories in inhuman wars and all revealed in her unflinching new memoir No Ordinary Assignment.

The least surprising part of her memoir is when she wins the George Polk Award, an Emmy Award, and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for her stellar reporting.

Jane takes us back to her young “hillbilly” childhood in County Armagh, growing up in a rural Protestant farming family, where security checkpoints along the roads and military helicopters in the skies was for her, normalcy.

She escaped this normalcy through the pages of National Geographic, running her fingers over its maps, and the inspiration on women war correspondents she saw reporting from the front lines.

Jane’s is a life lived through culture shocks, from a rustic Irish farm to a bucolic New Jersey prep school, from the ancient civilization of Yemen to the futuristic world of Dubai, from finding her tribe among the war correspondents at Kabul’s colorful Gandamack Lodge, to staying with her tribe to the bitter end in the fall of that city years later.

With fear as her ally, she wills herself into some of the most dangerous places on earth, balancing her sense of service with her ambition, looking at each conflict through non-sectarian eyes, feeling privileged to tell the human stories amid geopolitical turmoil.

She is largely off the road now, teaching at Princeton University while continuing as a PBS NewsHour - Special Correspondent and contributor for The New Yorker.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 at 7:00 pm, The National Humanities Center will host “An Evening with Jane Ferguson,” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So much of Jane’s “beat” spun out of the tragedy of 9/11, so it was particularly meaningful that we recorded our episode with her on the anniversary of that somber day.


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Jane Ferguson


Born in 1980s rural Northern Ireland, I was raised on a small farm close to the border between the north and the south. My childhood years were a violent time in Northern Ireland, during the era of 'The Troubles', and I was shaped not only by the political turmoil around my community, but also by the crucial role played by journalists covering the stories of violence and suffering.

As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend The Lawrenceville School, near Princeton, New Jersey, before returning to the UK to study at York University in England. There I majored in Politics and English Literature and worked on the school’s award-winning newspaper, York Vision. After graduating in 2007 I travelled to Yemen where I lived and studied Arabic, while adventuring around the country on weekends.

Later that year, I took a job in Dubai as a reporter at the English language newspaper Gulf News until 2009 when I began reporting for CNN International. Global terror was on the rise and I covered Al Qaeda franchises in some of the most dangerous but underreported hotspots in the region, such as Somalia, Yemen and the African Sahel.
Traveling to Mogadishu in 2010 to embed with African Union forces fighting the Al Qaeda-linked group Al Shabab, I became the first journalist working for a US TV network to report from inside Somalia since the UN pulled out in the 1990s. Returning to Mogadishu for CNN in 2011, I reported from the front … Read More