Global Dynamics, Local Reporting

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, ABC News


President, Council on Foreign Relations

This event was part of the 2024 CFR Local Journalists Workshop, which is made possible through the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


FROMAN: Well, good afternoon/good evening, everybody. It’s great to see you all here. I’m excited to be here because this is my first time experiencing the Local Journalists Program that Irina has told me so much about, and it’s great that all of you came in for this. I think we have journalists from forty-five states, Irinia, is that right? We lost one, OK. (Laughter.) We lost a state or we lost a person? OK. (Laughter.) I mean, that would be news. (Laughs.)

RADDATZ: I wouldn’t be here if we had. I got to go, yeah. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: Well, welcome to this. I want to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for supporting this event. I’m so delighted to welcome Martha Raddatz to this event.

RADDATZ: Thank you, thank you.

FROMAN: I’ve only known Martha for thirty-four years, OK, so we’re just getting acquainted. It’s really great.

RADDATZ: Yeah, yeah. It’s true.

FROMAN: It’s really great to see you again. And you all have her full biography, but as you know she ABC News chief global affairs correspondent; co-anchor of This Week with George Stephanopoulos; and she’s covered foreign policy, national security, politics for literally decades, from—

RADDATZ: Quite many, many decades, yes.

FROMAN: Many decades from the Pentagon, the State Department—

RADDATZ: More than thirty-four years.

FROMAN: —the White House, and very importantly—

RADDATZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

FROMAN: —conflict zones all over the world, which we’ll talk about.

But before we get to conflict zones, we wanted to get really to your origin story. So let’s go back to—is it Salt Lake City?

RADDATZ: Salt Lake City. I—

FROMAN: Where you started.

RADDATZ: KSL’s here, right? And Deseret News, right?


RADDATZ: (Laughs.) And NPR Utah.

FROMAN: There you go. There’s—

RADDATZ: I started—I actually grew up in Salt Lake City, and my mother actually was a newsroom secretary. I was raised by a single mom in Salt Lake City. And so I was kind of around it, but I never grew up wanting to be a journalist. And then I started—you know, I was just sort of around it, and I was in college, and I got a job at the local station, so started covering local news there. And then moved to Boston fairly quickly after that, in a couple years, and started working at WCVB, which is—the station I worked at in Salt Lake was an ABC affiliate and the station I worked at in Boston was an ABC affiliate. And so that was, like, starting in 1979—in ’78-’79 in Boston. I guess it was ’79.

And at the time, WCVB was owned by—was owned locally by Boston Broadcasters, and they just poured money into it. This won’t happen anymore, OK? (Laughter.) But for me, it was—it was fantastic because I not only covered local news; I covered international news. And it’s really where I started traveling. I never—I never thought that would happen, but we had an hour newscast—which is amazing—and I would do, you know, seven-, eight-minute pieces for that local station. And if I traveled internationally, it wasn’t as if it was like I’m going to go find someone from Boston who’s selling hotdogs in Paris; it was very much—which I talk about to the network, too, because I’ve kind of carried this work with me over the years of what I did very early on at WCVB traveling internationally. Like, I went to Israel for the first time in 1988, and then kept going back. And then ended up at the network, and of course, I’m there all the time now.

FROMAN: Well, we’re going to talk about all of that. But, in fact, I think we have a picture from you on your first trip in 1988.

RADDATZ: Didn’t we—yes. Yes, I think I gave you one. I didn’t know you’d use it, but—

FROMAN: Can we show the picture of Martha from 1988 going to Israel for the first time?

RADDATZ: How do we show that? Ooh. (Laughs.)

FROMAN: Well, let’s see. There you are. That’s the first time.

RADDATZ: That’s the first time.

FROMAN: And that was, I think, more recent.

RADDATZ: That was in October.

FROMAN: Yeah. Nothing has changed.

RADDATZ: Yeah. Right. Well, I mean, it’s—as you say that, nothing’s changed, I mean, that kind of was my perspective too—

FROMAN: Right.

RADDATZ: —I mean, because that in ’88 was the first intifada.

FROMAN: Right.

RADDATZ: And then that was, obviously, the horrible, horrible attack which we, of course, continue to cover.

FROMAN: So let’s talk about the coverage there. First of all, going back to 1988, certainly the news industry has changed a lot. How did you make the Middle East relevant for this local Boston news organization? Like, why were they so interested in that? Why did they invest in you to do that?

RADDATZ: So one of the things I wanted to do is tell from a local story an international story. And I think for us in Boston, it had started with Corazon Aquino, who was eventually president in the Philippines, had been in exile in Boston, so there was a lot of interest in her. So I think one of my first trips overseas was to the Philippines to kind of follow her back and see what happened, and so that was sort of a built-in angle.

But as far as Israel was concerned, it was, obviously, a big story in the news because the demonstrations were happening and this first intifada was happening. So I wanted to tell that in a way that would be relevant to our viewers and to kind of bring them in. What I did was I found a Boston couple who had moved to Efrat, which is a settlement on the West Bank. I found a young woman who was living in a kibbutz in northern Israel. And then we went—and that was kind of our establishing we’re here and we’re going to talk to these people. But again, it wasn’t like, you know, what’s it like in Boston; it’s like, these are people from your community, choices that they made to move over there. The family in Efrat, in the settlement in the West Bank, everybody was sort of kumbaya at the time; you know, all this is great. But, like, the soldiers, I mean, it was rock throwing at the time.

And those same people I went back, when I ended up at ABC Network twelve years later, and I found all of them, found everybody in my seven-, eight-minute pieces. I found the woman who had moved from Boston to live in a kibbutz and how she viewed all this. And they had changed in that twelve-year period dramatically. Everybody had changed. We found a young woman who I randomly—we were also in the West Bank at a Palestinian church, and a couple—young couple was getting married, and there was a 19-year-old girl who came out, and I interviewed her, and you know, what do you think about the conflict. And it’s, you know, we’ll get married, our children will get—you know, our children will marry, and we’ll grow in this community, and we’ll have our land. So in 2000, when I did this very long Nightline piece, to me it was just so obvious that this wasn’t going to—that peace would not be coming to the Middle East anytime soon.

I found when I went back in October—because I’ve stayed in touch with the Boston couple. They had four children. Over the years, I remember her—because originally it was like, we’ll all get along, my Palestinian neighbors, it’ll be wonderful, it’ll be great. And their children, they started talking twelve years later in front of their adult children, saying things that I thought were alarming: don’t trust anybody, they’re terrible, and our neighbors are terrible, and we can’t live together. I’m like, boy, Deborah, you’ve really changed, and don’t you feel bad talking about them this way in front of your kids? She said, oh, my kids think we’re too soft on our neighbors now. So you could just see that. And then the young Palestinian woman who was nineteen years old, again, in October—Deborah, sadly, has Alzheimer’s, so I did not talk to her this time. But her husband, I mean, peace will never come. I’m sure he supports everything that Benjamin Netanyahu is probably doing right now, everything. And the woman—the young woman who I interviewed outside the church is—lives in Ramallah. They will never see eye to eye, ever.

But it was such a fascinating way to not only educate me—because it was really one of the first times I felt I understood war. You can go over there and you see the land, and it’s so small, and you understand sort of the fundamentals. And then this person is hurt, so they want to hurt the other person’s child, and back and forth, and back and forth, that sort of simple look at war. But it was also, I think, for our Boston audience, I was really proud.

And we did a series. Like, I found those soldiers. My husband joked that I—really, the whole reason I went back is because I wanted to find that soldier, but I did find him. He was in a very remote—he couldn’t even speak English anymore because he was a very remote, hardcore settler in one of those really tiny outposts. He was actually the hardest person to find because the IDF at the time didn’t give us last names. So I was walking around with, you know, the video of this guy and asking the IDF if somebody could help us, and we did find him. But it—to me, it has been the biggest lesson. I actually didn’t find him this time; I just found the—we just had time to—because we were, obviously, covering the biggest story in the world. But they added perspective to what we were doing.

So I’ve always tried to do that, to—because I really do—and I’m not saying this because there’s a bunch of local journalists here. I just think that’s where everything matters, and that if you can give your viewers or your readers or your listeners a view of themselves in the bigger world—and I think we on TV probably think, oh, you know, I’m kind of the voice, or you know, your NPR—I’m kind of the voice of how I view that. And not to mean opinion, but if you all went someplace you’d never been before or—then you’d have the perspective of your local community, if that makes sense.

FROMAN: I mean, one of the things I think we sort of wrestle with here at the Council is how do you—how do you do the storytelling in a way that takes complex policy issues like the Middle East and make them relatable to people, and explain why it matters to them. Why does it matter to somebody in Salt Lake City what goes on in the Middle East or what goes on in Ukraine? How would you assess—I mean, in that case you had a Boston couple that was sort of a wedge into seeing what was going on in Israel and the—and the occupied territories. How do you—how do you think the press does? How would you rate the press generally in terms of their ability to translate what’s going on in these complex situations back here?

RADDATZ: From a local perspective, I think you can still do what I did, which is you can do it from the perspective of someone in your community or someone who goes, or find the doctor that’s in Ukraine, or find—and that’s a way into that story. I have, obviously, worked with a ton of young people now who get frustrated, and nobody wants—you know, nobody wants a story about this, that, or the other. And I’m like, then keep trying, and that you have to tell—I always say I’m a journalist first and a storyteller second, and I think that is the key to getting—to making it relatable.

Look, I get forty seconds sometimes on world news, and taking the most complex issues possible—(laughs)—I think I did—I did Middle East last night. And I—and seriously, it was probably—I don’t know, it was probably a minute and a half. And I find that as much as we might complain and say I wish I was doing those seven-, eight-minute pieces, there is a way in your brain that you can condense that. You all know that the attention span of everybody is about this big now. So I think it is—and what I tell people, just take the three key things that are the simplest. I think it’s something I’ve really tried to do in my career. When I ask questions, I don’t ask questions to sound smart; I ask questions that I hope our viewers or your—or a print audience or whoever would want to ask. I actually think that’s a gift David Muir has too, that it’s not—that it’s not to impress anybody. I don’t think there are dumb questions. But if you can yourself understand the stories—and you know, I—the co-anchor on the Sunday show, too, I do have big real estate to do seven- or eight-minute pieces. I certainly have done that in Israel and Ukraine. But it’s also important to do—to understand it yourself, and our young writers sometimes I’ll send it back or they’ll send it to me, and I’ll ask them a question, and they don’t understand what they’re saying. It’s just like throwing stuff at the wall, and like, here’s a fact, here’s a fact, here's a fact. You have to explain it in a way that makes sense to people.

And I think that’s a skill, and I assume you guys all have that skill already or you probably wouldn’t be here. But it is—but it is the way to help—it’s so important for people to understand the world. And make them know how important it is for them to understand the world. Make them know that it’s really important that they understand what Afghanistan was about or Iraq was about, because they will make decisions as voters on things that you tell them about. And I always kind of go back to that. This is informing the American public because they are the people who make decisions that affect us all, that all of us have a responsibility to do that and understand.

And look, that’s—there’s no question people aren’t paying as much attention. There’s no question. Or that it’s quick. So we have to adapt to that. I try to adapt to that and understand. And I don’t mean write some crazy, you know, headline like head worm in a guy’s brain or anything. (Laughter.) I mean, who didn’t—who didn’t read that story?

FROMAN: For example.

RADDATZ: Who didn’t read that story? But it doesn’t have to be that. But there are ways. I mean, like, your leads are so important, and that’s what I tell our young writers too. Like, please do not be stenographers. Please do not tell me that at—you know, this afternoon assistant secretary of state said this, that, and the other. Tell me what’s important about that story. Listen. What’s different? What will people want to read? And, again, it’s not, you know, some grabby, sensational headline. But it is a headline. And it is—it is something in that first sentence that’s so important. And, you know, all of you writers, and NPR, and everything, you understand the importance of that first thing.

FROMAN: You’ve emphasized just how important it is for people to understand what’s going on in the world, why it is. Are you surprised—there’s a big debate going on about whether we should be supporting Ukraine, around the country. Are you surprised that such a significant part of the American public doesn’t resonate to the argument that we should be supporting Ukraine? And what do you think has gone wrong in the way that we’ve described what’s at stake in Ukraine that we should be trying to correct to make it more obvious?

RADDATZ: I care—I care very much about Ukraine. And I’ve been there a lot. And I was there the night that the war started, and I’ve been back numerous times. Look, you know a lot of people go to where they want to go and hear news that validates whatever they think. That is an issue in this country in many ways. And it happens on both sides. I am I surprised about the debate in Ukraine? I’ve put away the “we’ve never seen this happen before” phrase—(laughs)—in the news in the last several years, because I feel like we say that constantly. Do I feel like we haven’t explained it? Well, all we can do is keep explaining.

I mean, I’m not going to go on the air and say, you should all send money to Ukraine. But I’m going to show people what’s happening there. And I’m going to talk to people about why it is important, and try to educate people in the way about—what, Russia? You want to—you want to support Russia? That’s not going to work out so well for or Ukraine, or any allies, if he keeps going. I mean, there are times when I think you all step back and say, wait, I want to be really objective about that. That’s a tough one. That is a tough one.

On the other hand, I understand that American people can say, you know, what? Let’s leave that money here. We’ve got our own problems. I understand that, and that is a valid point of view. If you make that decision after you understand exactly what that may mean, and you—and you want to do that, I’ve said as much as I can as a journalist. But I—

FROMAN: You just want to tee up what’s really at stake if they do that.

RADDATZ: Yes. (Laughs.) Yeah. You want to—you want to—exactly. You want to tee up exactly what’s at stake. And if people make up their mind a different way, there’s really nothing I can do about it, except keep doing it. I mean, I’ve always tried in my stories—and this sounds a little corny—but that human element I just think is so important. And it my last trip to Ukraine I—speaking of the doctor from somewhere. It actually was by coincidence, but a neurosurgeon I know from D.C., who happened to—a former Army doctor who happened to save the life of my colleague, Bob Woodruff, when he was injured in Iraq, happened to be in Ukraine doing brain surgery. How he did an interview and brain surgery at the same time, I’m not sure. But he was really good at it. But what—

FROMAN: I’m not sure I’d want to be the patient who was—(laughter)—

RADDATZ: Yeah. Yeah, I’m—yeah—

FROMAN: Could you just do one thing at a time, please?

RADDATZ: And he kept, you know, Rocco likes—yeah. I mean, yeah, OK. But he was doing five brain surgeries a day. And all I had to do was walk through that hospital, and my own—I mean, I am proud that I’ve been doing this for decades, and that I have a body of work that I can draw on, a body of experiences I can draw on, because I walked through that hospital in Dnipro and I knew how bad it was, because I have spent my career in combat support hospitals, in battle zones. There were room after room of young men who had lost two and three limbs. I think in Afghanistan and Iraq that was such a rarity. You just didn’t have triple amputees or quadruple amputees. And the traumatic brain injuries—I mean, Rocco, the doctor, was just one, after another, after another, after another. And he spent two weeks there doing it, and I think it’s the second or third time he’d been over there, you know, leaving his job in DC to volunteer over there.

So it’s people like that. And you interview him, and he’s such a powerful voice, that you want that perspective. And that, to me, is—and I don’t know if people have noticed, but nobody’s on the front line reporting from Ukraine. It’s—or Gaza. You’re not allowed in Gaza. You’re not allowed on the front lines of Ukraine. We can go afterwards. We can see the destruction. But you haven’t really seen that front line. And I think it’s way worse than anybody imagines, for the Russians and, of course, for the Ukrainians too, in terms of casualties.

FROMAN: You mentioned Afghanistan. You spent a lot of time going back and forth to Afghanistan. I’m sure you’ve invested in a lot of relationships there over the years as well. How did the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the collapse of the regime there, what lessons you draw from that—policy lessons now—from our ability to shape governments, shape societies, nation build?

RADDATZ: I mean, when you talk about how surprised I was, I was stunned by the way that withdrawal happened—absolutely stunned. And there is still a big part of me that kind of tenses up when I hear the administration say, you know, we were—everybody was going to leave. It’s not that you were going to leave. That is a debatable—if you want to leave Afghanistan. That’s debatable. Do it. But not that way. It was chaotic. It was, I mean, tragic. So I had been with the commander of forces there, the last guy, General Scott Miller, who’s a special operations guy. Those guys are generally not the guys who are really forthcoming about anything. (Laughs.) They’re not really lovers of the media. So Miller didn’t do very many interviews. And he was very hesitant—he clearly, and basically said it since then—they wanted to leave 4(,000)-5,000 people there. I don’t know whether it would have made a difference, but it’s certainly something that’s, again, debatable.

And so I was with Miller, I don’t know, six weeks before Afghanistan fell. And my local producer was saying to me, we think they’re coming to Kabul. I’d also interviewed that day an interpreter—or, a guy who’d been an interpreter for the Marine Corps. I’d never met him before. Our local producer found him. He was terrified. And said on camera—and we didn’t use his name—that he thought he would be beheaded. When Afghanistan fell, he’s the first person I thought about, is Abdul Rahimi. His three beautiful daughters, his wife who was a journalist. I was so nervous about him. So we—I’ll just—end of story—is ABC, and with the help of anyone who would listen to me night after night after night on the phone and during the day, got him out of there. They now live about twenty minutes from me, because we managed to get them near our place, because I really wanted to keep an eye on them. His kids are thriving.

But also, they are the lucky ones because they are all English speakers, they had people who were pushing for them. I mean, at an East Room press conference right afterwards my colleague, Stephanie Ramos, actually stood up—because we were trying to get him out of there—at a Biden press conference and said: You said everybody’s going to get out. Well, let me tell you about this guy. And President Biden said, yeah, we’ll get him out. I’m—we got him out. (Laughs.) So that, to me, was so chaotic. And I—it’s one of those things that every time I go on the air and we talk about Afghanistan and the withdrawal, I always—or almost always make a point of saying: It’s not that they left Afghanistan, it’s how they left Afghanistan.

And I—you know, I try to stay away from opinion. But I also think I’ve been there enough that I can certainly do analysis on the air. So that one’s a rough one. I was actually just reading—I was telling Mike that I just finished reading George Stephanopoulos’ book which is out next week called The Situation Room. A magnificent history of all of the things that happened. And he has a huge section on Afghanistan, and how—and how that went down, and what went wrong.

Sorry, I got off track. But Scott Miller, the day I interviewed him, I said, do you think we should leave troops? And he looked at me, and he just, like, looked away and said, I can’t go there. And you knew exactly what he was saying without having to say it. That would—one advantage of TV in that moment. But you could certainly write about that as well. But it was—it was clear that things were completely falling apart. And he knew it, and I knew it. So.

FROMAN: Journalists have often sort of fallen into the line of duty, so to speak, as they cover war zones. But this war in Gaza, ninety-seven journalists and media workers have been killed—more than any other conflict in recent history. Is there something endemic about this conflict that has been more dangerous for journalists? Is there anything more that should or could be done to protect journalists? Or is this the price of being a wartime journalist?

RADDATZ: That so far exceeds anything that a journalist should have to go through. I mean, I think there’s no place for them to go. They’re determined to keep covering it. The president himself said there had been some indiscriminate bombing. I mean, if you—if you have that going on, there’s—we had a local producer there, Samy, who actually we just got out too. I mean, day after day he was losing friends. I mean, it was—his dispatches from there are utterly heartbreaking. So, yeah, that’s way more than—and there’s just no protection.

And there’s no—you know, even, like, protection-wise, I in Iraq and Afghanistan embedded with the military. That is by far not the only part of the story. And we always, of course, covered more than just my angle of being with the military. But it was kind of—when I first went—well, when I went to Israel and when I went to Ukraine it sort of hit me, like, oh, if something happens here, we don’t—U.S. troops are not here. You don’t have those helicopters to take you out. I mean, the Fox journalist who was injured right away, I know they managed to get him out of there.

But, you know, you’re not—there’s no place for journalists who are injured in Gaza to go, because the hospitals have been bombed. And in Ukraine, if something happens—I mean, it’s a real different feel, because I covered enough in Iraq especially to know about the golden hour and that they were—the U.S. military is just unparalleled in treating the wounded and getting them out of there quickly. And I think if you get out in that first hour your chances of living are phenomenal. And that just doesn’t happen in those other places.

FROMAN: Press freedom. Evan Gershkovich has been in jail now in Russia for over a year. Five hundred and twenty, or more, journalists are currently imprisoned globally. Is this—we think a lot about democracy here, the decline of democracy generally, the threats to it, the rise of autocracy. What more should be done? Do you feel like governments are advocating enough for journalists to be freed and to be protected? And what more—is this sort of a step change in terms of the nature of the threat to a free press than there’s been in the past?

RADDATZ: The change has been—it’s just gotten worse and worse and worse. Look, they’re—I’m trying to think what year it was. Maybe twenty-five years ago there was—the CIA—then John Deutch—that was—d not twenty-five years ago. Maybe twenty years ago. But John Deutch was the CIA director. And Committee to Protect Journalists and all sorts of journalism societies went and pleaded with them to basically sign into law that you could not use—that a CIA officer could never use cover as being a journalist, because the enemies would just assume you’re all with the CIA. And in that testimony, he said something like I cannot—he said, yeah, we won’t do that. But I do imagine a scenario where a journalist would be the only one who knew that you could either rescue a hostage or stop a terror attack.

That actually made me think. I thought, oh. Because I’ve been in situations where I think, oh, this is—I’m going to try to interview the, you know, most wanted person in the world, or something. And then you think, wow, I wonder if they’re tracking me. Maybe they should be. But Deutch left that door open. And it’s really never been debated since. And I don’t think the CIA does that. But the sad truth is, our enemies don’t care. I mean, poor Evan. I’m sure they just think he’s a spy because he’s a journalist. James Foley. No one cared. Oh, he’s a spy, said ISIS. I mean, that is—that is just the moniker you get. If I was arrested tomorrow, they would think I was spying, 100 percent.

And what we do about that, I don’t know. Daniel Pearl. I mean, that was so stunning. And that was before ISIS. And it was—it was so stunning and shocking, especially to journalists but certainly to the world, what happened to him. And James Foley and the others who were killed. But putting them in jail? Yeah. Do I think we should do more? I think we should pound our fists. But the problem is, when the government starts saying, oh, wait, let them out, they’re not spies, they don’t believe them.

FROMAN: You were detained three times.

RADDATZ: I was very briefly detained in Iran. But when you—when you say very briefly detained, when you’re actually detained you’re not sure it’s going to be so brief. I was in—it was my first trip to Iran, probably twelve, thirteen years ago. And the photographer and I thought we were so clever. We were doing something on the morality police. We had papers to go around and shoot on the streets, but we saw the morality—but not the morality police. We saw them, so I sort of did a stand up and my photographer zoomed in on what was happening behind me. They arrested us. They took the tape. And it just kept—they just kept elevating it. Like, the low-level guy didn’t want to let us go. They also took us to the section where it was the drug people. So I thought, oh my god, they’ve put something in this van.

And they took our passports. They let us go back to the hotel that night. We had to come back to the police station the first—the next day. And like, you know, like the third day it was our fixer over there said, just go. Just go. Here’s your passport. Go, go, go, go. And we got out of there. But I actually went back. And I thought, I can’t believe they’re letting me back. I was a little nervous about that. They all seemed fascinated by it. Our government fixer there was, like, oh, you were—you were arrested last time. I’m, like, yeah, that was great. (Laughter.) Yeah. That was—that was great.

FROMAN: Don’t need to replay that.

RADDATZ: So happy to—yeah, let’s try not to do that. And then about—when the nuclear deal was signed, I was in Tehran that night—or just announced. I don’t think they signed it that day. And I had a young photographer with me, Patrick. And we—again, we have permission. And we went over to shoot a stand up outside the former U.S. embassy, now called the Den of Espionage Museum. But we had papers to do it. It was, like, 12:30 in the morning, because the time difference for world news just does you in. So I’m doing a stand-up. And these two motorcycles come up. And these kind of thuggish looking guys get off. And what are you doing? Patrick hands them the papers and whatever. And he just looks at Patrick. One of them just grabs the camera and leaves. And, poor Patrick is ready to cry. And I’m laughing. I’m like, wow, we’ve really made progress. They didn’t take us. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: Yeah. (Laughs.)

RADDATZ: But, honestly, that was one of those other experiences for me, where it’s not necessarily what people say. But I’d been there before and I’d kind of watched. And on a trip earlier they wouldn’t let us in the Den of Espionage Museum, but on the front of it they had the rotor from the failed Iranian rescue mission called Desert One. And they put that out front. And they had some horrible-looking pictures and, you know, people, whatever. And they—right after the nuclear deal was signed, they took that off and they put it in the back. And they actually let us in that embassy, which is, like, a dream tour. It’s the most amazing thing to see, because it’s just frozen in time from 1979. They have the last dispatches of the ambassador, they have the typewriters, they have, you know, the shredding rooms, they have a guy who gave us a tour, the glassy room of secrets was the SCIF.

FROMAN: Glassy room of secrets?

RADDATZ: Which they’re not wrong. Again, they’re not wrong. (Laughs.) That’s what happened in there. But that was a completely fascinating tour. And my—also one of my first trips I went over there—which is also a lesson too. You know, so, OK, are these people here on their own? Do they want to, you know, a hundred thousand people marching, death to America. I got down on the streets with them. And a lot of angry looking people. And it’s a little nerve racking. And death to America. And things are burning. And then the guy next to me says, where are you from? And you’re, like, Canada? (Laughter.) I said, America. And he just gave me a big smile and said, welcome. (Laughter.) Like, OK. Thank you so much for that.

So it’s that. And it’s that sense when you go to these places, in the same way you go out and cover the stories you cover, you get a sense of what’s going on beyond what people tell you. And it’s—I mean, that, to me, was so illuminating. Like, you know what? He doesn’t really hate me. And it’s—getting out there and continuing to report is so vital to what we all do. So just beg your newsrooms to go places. And in your communities even, don’t sit in your office. Just don’t. Don’t just make phone calls. Just get out there and feel it and meet people. It’s just so different one on one. It’s so different seeing it. You’re all nodding your heads, so I’m preaching to the choir here.

FROMAN: A sense of what’s really going on on the ground is incredibly valuable. And imagine there are times—I think you reported that what President Bush was saying was going on on the ground in Afghanistan wasn’t—didn’t bear any resemblance to what you were seeing on the ground.


FROMAN: Journalists have a more nuanced sense, or may have a more nuanced sense of what’s going on. But this is a little bit to John Deutch’s point, is there a role for journalists to keep officials better informed? Is that just through their writing, or do you come back and—

RADDATZ: Yeah, I think there is. Like, it’s—I mean, I’ve been in a really unique position, because most—because I’m not a foreign correspondent. I go over to cover foreign news, but I am based in Washington, DC. War correspondents, our foreign correspondents, are based in London. Richard Engel is based, you know, wherever. They’re there. I’m in DC so I see the policies being made. And I see the effects of the policies. I think what Mike is talking about is there was a time in Iraq—and I was going all the time, I was actually covering the White House for a couple of years. Not my favorite beat. It just not—does not fit kind of my personality to be in a little booth all day. I praise everybody who does it, but it was not for me.

But it was wartime. So it was really I was still covering the war. And President Bush knew I went over there a lot. And there was a particular East Room press conference where I think the intelligence reports had just said they thought it looked like it was heading for a civil war. And I asked the president that. And he said something like, you know, I’m here in this big, beautiful house. You’ve been—you’ve been there. Kind of, do you? (Laughs.) OK. So—

FROMAN: That’s after $60 billion of intelligence spending. (Laughter.)

RADDATZ: After $60 billion.

FROMAN: I don’t know what do you think, Martha? I mean, you know—(laughter)—

RADDATZ: But—I mean, but that’s a—like—(laughs)—I have sort of this news thing where—Doug Lute once said to me—who was NSC, and war czar, and just a terrific person. Said: I think what we need to do is just get your travel schedule, and we’ll be way ahead of our intelligence agencies. Because I would go places and things would happen. I had a—like, the Yemen—I had a visit to Yemen when they tried to blow up an airliner, and anyway.

But there were times, like, maybe you’d go on a trip and you’d want to go to—like, if you’re going to Yemen. Maybe I can go out to the—to talk to somebody at the State Department, or the Agency, and, you know, see what they know. But I always felt like I left thinking they got more from us, because the truth is we can go places they cannot go. They may have human intelligence on the ground. But those people aren’t necessarily reporting all these—all these details. And there were a couple of times with President Bush that I went into the Oval Office and just chatted about Iraq, and things that weren’t real—I mean, it’s not like I was, like, being an intelligence agent. It’s stuff I’d said on TV. But there were also little stories, and little moments that I had noticed.

And I remember telling him about—that I was riding around in Iraq. And it was—we were in a convoy. And we had an Iraqi interpreter with us. And it was sunset. It was, like, this beautiful night. And we look across—but we’re kind of stuck in the zillion traffic in Sadr City. And we all looked out, including the interpreter, and we saw these little kids just laughing and jumping up and down on a cardboard box, and fooling around. And then the interpreters just went—stop, stop, stop. I’ve got to get out. And it turned out the little kids were stomping on kittens and killing kittens.

And the interpreter said to me, that’s the future of my country. They grew up with war. That’s the future of my country. I have to get out. They didn’t let them out because we were in a dangerous area. But I remember telling President Bush that story. I’m, like, those are the things that stick with me when I come back, not just the combat support hospitals, or the courage of our military forces. It’s those moments that tell more about what’s happening in those places.

FROMAN: Last question before we open it up to this group. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about social media, AI, TikTok. How is this all affecting—

RADDATZ: You’ve already done AI, right? I mean, we—you know, we have visual verification teams to look at everything we possibly can. And they are busy every second of the day. Not just AI. Just Twitter. And, I mean, that’s a huge change too, social media. Like the night Israel responded to Iran, the night Iran responded to Israel, you know that’s going to hit Twitter first. And then you’ve got to verify that. And you know people are out to fool you. It’s perilous at all times. (Laughs.) It really is. I mean, we have great teams that do it. And, of course, it’s—you know, it’s television news so we want to do it as fast as possible, but be as accurate as possible.

But people see explosions. I mean, even the bin Laden raid, I know there was something on Twitter that night from Pakistan. Helicopter just landed. That’s unusual, you know, in Abbottabad. And I’m sure the White House was probably going, yikes. And the raid was just happening. But sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re wrong. And it’s that—it’s that citizen journalists thing. I mean, everybody thinks they’re a journalist. Which I love the old Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, and my former father-in-law, who said—somebody came up to him a long time ago. It was Watergate. And said, you know, what do you think of citizen journalists? And he’s like, well, I don’t know, what do you think of citizen brain surgeons? (Laughter.) I mean, it is—it would be classic Ben.

But it is changing. It’s changing our business. And that’s why we have to keep being professional about this, keep gathering more information. And the AI thing—I mean, I think you’ve had a session about that this week—it’s just beyond belief what they can do. It’s just beyond belief. And it’s not so much trouble for us. It’s trouble because people look at it on social media. And I think—actually, I think we should do more reporting on that. I mean, if you go down the rabbit hole on social media and see some of those videos and see what’s—it’s terrifying. Terrifying.

FROMAN: All right. On that note, let’s open it up. Roomful of journalists, I’m sure there’s a few questions.

RADDATZ: I told some journalism students recently if you don’t ask questions then you’re in the wrong business. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: Way in the back. Why don’t you stand up?

Q: Hi. I’m Brigham Tomco from Salt Lake City. I work at the Deseret News covering local politics.

I was in the car just recently with an Indian immigrant, and he was telling me how lucky we are to live in the United States and how thankful he was to be here. And I’m wondering how your travels to other part parts of the world have given you insight into some sort of American exceptionalism, but also the country’s strengths and weaknesses, and maybe how can we apply that context to our own reporting.

RADDATZ: I think—thanks for that question. And I could have guessed you were from Salt Lake with your name. I saw your name on the thing. I’m, like, I know where that—I know where he’s from.

I think, yes. You learn a lot traveling and listening to the perspective of others. And you see it change. I mean, it’s definitely changed in the last—in the last decade, about what people think. You also hear conspiracy theories over there. I mean, when I came out of Israel the first time, we were in Amman, Jordan. And one of the airline counter people came up to me and said, you know, that didn’t really happen, right? Like, what? He said, no, no, nom I was—

FROMAN: This is after October 7?

RADDATZ: Yes. This was, like, a week or so afterwards. So you get an idea that conspiracies are not just for here. They’re everywhere. But definitely, I always talk to people. I talk to people about politics. I talk to people about what they think of the U.S. And it’s—it kind of, obviously, depends on what’s happening. But I think, just what you’re doing in talking to an Indian immigrant, I mean, that’s a way to tell the story in the world too. I mean, from the perspective of people who are in your communities who came from—who came from elsewhere, I think is really important.

FROMAN: Yes, right here.

Q: Hi. I’m Laura Farrar. And I work as a business reporter in Arkansas, and actually was a foreign correspondent in China for about a decade.


Q: I’m curious how—with these ongoing conflicts, you know, in the Middle East and in Ukraine—how do you keep that relevant for an audience that gets tired of hearing about it and just loses interest? And obviously the tide has turned against Ukraine with some of the public opinion here. But how do you just kind of keep it relevant for American audiences when it just keeps dragging out forever?

RADDATZ: First of all, I don’t think you do it every day. Because I think there is fatigue. There is no question there’s fatigue about war. There’s fatigue about—I mean, I spent years in Iraq, I mean, going back and forth. Not years there. And every time it was more challenging to tell a story, or to tell a story—exactly what you’re saying. And I’m sure you experienced it in China. In fact, I think China’s not covered enough, because the interest isn’t there.

I mean, sadly, we all know that there is a limited amount of space. There is a limited amount of airtime. There’s a limited amount of money. And there’s a limited amount of interest. I mean, I recently—there was something I wanted to do in Ukraine, but I just couldn’t do it. I mean, because we’re in the middle of Israel-Gaza. So I think you just have to say: I’m going to figure out a great story, and figure out how to do that. I mean, it’s—again, I keep saying our young people, but I mentor a lot. And she was frustrated because a lot of people from our place were covering something in politics. And she said, I’m just getting the crumbs. And I said, Well, you got to go bake the cake.

I mean, and that’s—you know, I know that isn’t easy. I know it’s not easy to go find stories and tell them in a way that is compelling. You can do it. I probably wouldn’t have—by the way, I had no—I did not have my sights on the network. I wasn’t that person. I lived in Boston. It was great. I had a great job there at the—at the local station. I didn’t think about that. I think I’ve loved every story I’ve covered. And I think there’s so much complexity, and it’s just human complexity. Like the deeper you go, the deeper you go, the more you—the more you find out. And, you know, sadly, you just have to keep working it. You have to find a way to make people care, to make them listen. It’s not always going to be successful, but still do it.


RADDATZ: Oh, he’s in charge. Sorry.

FROMAN: That’s OK. No, no, no. Feel free. (Laughter.)

Q: Hi.

RADDATZ: And he said, we’ve known each other for a while.

Q: Sure. Ethan Sandweiss, Indiana Public Media.

So as journalists, right, it’s our job to hold power to account, and then also, you know, ask questions that challenge the dominant paradigm. But that can also sometimes be dangerous for both our access to that same power—

RADDATZ: That’s such a good question.

Q: And also, it can jeopardize, you know, our own standing sometimes in our news organizations, in a worst-case scenario if we’re not in a supportive environment. I mean, how do you navigate, like, responsibility as a journalist and also preserving that access?

RADDATZ: That’s a really, really good question, that’s so pertinent in Washington. This is what I would say simply: Our job is not to make people like us, but respect us. And if they don’t respect you for answering—for asking questions, then that’s too bad. I mean, it is—but, having said that, I also know that I am not going to go screaming at someone and—you know, let’s start from the thing, I respect you, you respect me. I actually, with the military, a couple of times early on, because I was embedded with them. They’re the guys who were really protecting me. And I remember doing, like, at a something—and asking some pretty tough questions. And they were pissed. And it was, like, well, I thought, you were my friend. I’m like, I’m not your friend. I’m not. Guys, I—you do your job, I do my job. Yes, we’re together, but I’m covering you. And if you don’t—and I’ve said flat out, if you don’t respect that then I don’t know what to tell you. Because that’s my job.

And they sort of—I mean, not just sort of. They got it. I mean, their job too—if it came to, you know, saving their buddy or saving me, I’m sure it would be their buddy. I mean, their job is to do their job. And their job was to be in battle, or to plan, whatever. I’m observing that. I mean, which is not to say I don’t have friends in the military or have relationships with people. But there is a point where you do that. But I think you do it respectfully. And that preserves that, in some ways. I mean, that’s—because you’re going to deal with those people. But you just have to, like, hey, I know you don’t like this, but it’s my job.

Q: Thanks.


Q: On that vein, how do you go around the question—I’m sure you probably got it too, like, many times when people ask you, so, what’s your angle for this story? If you’re going to follow people, like, to—you know, to do something at the Mexico—you know, U.S.-Mexico border, or, like, anything that’s controversial? A lot of times they ask you, so what’s your angle? And I mean, I have a way around it, but, yeah, I just want to hear your opinion.

RADDATZ: What’s your way around it?

Q: What’s your angle? I mean, I always say: Listen, I have no angle. I’m going to observe and follow your work. And I’m going to report on it. And, I mean, I really—I try not to answer that question because I really sometimes—many times I have no angle. Like, I have a pitch, but I don’t have an angle.

RADDATZ: And I think that’s what you just have to do. Yeah, I’m not—I’m not here for an angle. I remember seeing a Marine once, and I was—they let me into a base that people didn’t usually go. And he came up to me and he goes: Are you one of the good ones or the bad ones? I’m, like, I don’t know, are you one of the good ones are the bad ones? (Laughter.) And that sort of—(laughs)—took off from there, because it’s—you know, you just have to say that. I mean, it’s, like, I don’t have an angle. But surely you know that the border right now is in the news. And I want to see what’s actually happening. Just I want to see what’s actually happening. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m talking to you. That’s why I’ve called you. Whatever that is, to explain why you’re doing this story. I mean, first of all, too bad. Like, that’s my job.

FROMAN: Great. Yeah, here.

Q: HI. Bill Wynn with La Semana Del Sur, a newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

You told the story earlier about the people from Boston who had then—you had reconnected with later, and how their views have evolved, and how you felt that it was really—there was no going back from that point. And that struck me as similar to a conversation I had with a colleague here at the reception earlier tonight about the increased polarization in the United States. And while clearly the two situations are not parallel, how close do you think we are to getting to that point where we really are never going to see eye to eye again?

RADDATZ: OK. So this is not my job. (Laughs.) Look, I see it all the time. I mean, we are covering the election. And it’s really, really difficult. And I think you need to approach it in the same way that you do a public official. You go in, some modicum of respect, talk to people about—I sat down with a big group of Trump supporters. And I think one of the things that the news does is, like, do you like Donald Trump? I do, I do, I do, I do, I do. I really like to talk further, and dig deeper, and listen to what people are saying. I’m not going to bridge that divide. It’s obviously—the polarization in the country is difficult to cover and it’s difficult to see. It is.

And I think what happens when that happens is both sides get further and further apart. But one on one—I mean, in the same way that death to America—I’ve gone—you know, I’ve gone to Trump rallies. And people are, you know, on cue booing us. But if you get down on the floor, they’re nice to you, generally. I mean, it’s—the “enemy of the people” was a really awful thing to say, and an awful thing to live with. And it bothers me to this day. It will always bother me. It is destructive. But I think we have to—I mean, I approach that the same way I approach what you’re talking about, what you’re talking about, and just listen to the stories.

It’s not my job to bring people together. And I sound a little Pollyannish because it’s like, oh, and people will see that. I’m not sure any of those people I did the story on saw it. And because most—because the media is so divided. I think one of the things we do at ABC, and the networks all do, and you all do too, is you try very hard to just be straightforward and down the middle on these things. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge all the time, every day, how you cover politics in this country, and the division. If you have any good ideas, please tell me.

But, you know, your local communities are really helpful. Like, we are doing now—ABC is really depending more on our affiliates, which I think is great. And, you know, calling the affiliates, and what are you seeing. And I think we’re going to do more of that this year. And I always, if I go on the road or go to the battleground states or any state, try to talk to the local political reporter about what they’re seeing. Because really, they know more than I do. I mean, I can do that same thing of going in as a network reporter and seeing what local people are saying. But you all know way more than I would in your community. But we’ll see in a couple of months.

FROMAN: A woman waving. Here comes a microphone, behind you.

Q: Oh, thank you. I’m Lici Beveridge, and I live in Mississippi, so I cover a lot of social justice issues.

A lot of times I try to tell the stories of the people who live there. And it’s not just, you know, Black people and White people. It’s very diverse. And people don’t realize that. And I try to bring attention to a lot of the families that are, you know, maybe not mainstream.

RADDATZ: Caught in between?

Q: But sometimes I feel like when they’re telling me their stories, and listening to some of the things that they—the challenges they face, that if I tell their stories publicly, they could be in danger, or their livelihoods could be threatened, or things like that. How do you kind of find, you know, your ethical boundaries of telling the stories that, you know, should be there, and, you know, having concern for people’s lives?

RADDATZ: These questions are all so good. And—

FROMAN: They’re journalists. (Laughter.) Yeah.

RADDATZ: I know. I know. They’re all in the right business.

I have been in that position before, where—I don’t like to put people in danger. And I think there’s ways to tell those stories without doing that. I mean, this is probably the wrong example, but the interpreter, I mean, we didn’t use his name. We didn’t say where he lived. You know, I didn’t describe anything. But his picture was on TV. Now, that was his decision. But that day she wanted to go on TV too, his wife. And I said, no. Don’t do—don’t do that. People know who you are. You’re a journalist. Let’s not do that. I mean, I think that—I default to kindness and not putting people in huge danger.

I really, I—frankly, I do care deeply about people I cover. I mean, that’s why I follow them year, after year, after year, after year. I mean, I just went to a twentieth reunion of the soldiers I wrote about who were in a battle twenty years ago. And I stay in touch with a lot of them. But it’s—I mean, if you—I’ll give you an example. One of those people I’ve met along the way did an interview with me, and then—and then said, you know, I wish I hadn’t done that. I don’t—want to tell those stories. I’m like, OK. I mean, it’s—we’re human beings, right? I mean, it’s—we’re objective, but we’re not objective about people’s—lives are going to be imperiled, or whose, you know, sacrifice and service, and all those things, or tragedy. I’m not objective about that. I care about that.

FROMAN: Yes. Right here.

Q: Liz—oh, no? OK. Liz González from Telemundo. I’m sorry the phone went off. Devastating. (Laughs.)

RADDATZ: I love Telemundo.

Q: Thank you. We cover the border so much. We cover immigration issues and how polarizing immigration is. But do you think we’re covering enough what’s happening in Latin America? I don’t remember seeing too many correspondents going to Latin American countries and showing why is the border in the situation that it’s in? I don’t think we hear enough about it.

RADDATZ: I’m with you on that. I’m totally with you on that. And I—

Q: Yeah. I think that—at Telemundo, we send people to these countries, for our audience. But I don’t think the mainstream audience is seeing this.

RADDATZ: I agree. And I think, you know, when they talk about the root of the problem, we should go to the root of the problem. And, again, tell that story in a way—like, I’ve wanted to find someone at the border and backtrack. And where did they come from? And why did they do this? And, you know, it’s—you’re totally right. It should be covered more. But, again, it’s that—we’ve got a giant world. It’s a giant problem. And you put your resources where you can. But I think that’s a great idea.

FROMAN: Gentleman there.

Q: Hi. I’m Jack Harvel from the—I cover of Kansas state politics for the Topeka Capital-Journal.

And I did want to ask, as we’ve seen a downturn in the industry over the past twenty years, how that has affected these big investments in—or, I guess, these big projects going overseas? And, yeah.

RADDATZ: I mean, again, to be honest, honestly, we—you know, we have to pick and choose what we cover. And we do it as conscientiously as possible. I mean, there are ways to—you know, instead of taking three crews, you can take one. Instead of taking two producers, you can take one. Obviously, it affects everybody. It affects the industry. It affects all of you. It affects us. And I think it makes it even more important to figure out before you go what story you’re going to tell—and I don’t mean an angle—but what you’re going to do and where it is. And, I mean, plan better, in a strange way? Like, oh, well, next week, you know, is the anniversary of this, or, you know, we think this might happen with President Biden and they might announce this, so maybe we should go to the border.

And, you know, all that, that it’s news driven. We obviously spend a lot of money on news, but I think we’re more careful. And, you know, you can’t cover everything. You can’t. And there are ways to cover it that aren’t—you know, I mean, you can do remote interviews. You can do—you know, instead of going to Ukraine, you might get him up—you might get President Zelensky on a—in a studio over there. So those things do come into play, without question.

FROMAN: Ah, yes, right here in front. The Utah reporter.

Q: Hi, there. Pamela McCall from NPR Utah. Formerly of CBS.


Q: Mmm hmm. This dovetails with the last two questions. How should one pitch this to an editorial team or news director who doesn’t see localizing global stories as something that an audience locally would be interested in? We have education reporters. We have politics reporters. They’re on a certain beat. I’m working on a story right now with the Utah defense industry and the ties to what’s going on globally. It’s been a very big lift to convince the powers that be that this is a story worth the time and worth telling. I know that you work on a network level, but from a local level what’s your best advice on pitching this to higher ups?

RADDATZ: I think—first of all, I sometimes listen to people at work pitch things, or even after we’ve done something that I like, and they’re going, yeah, you know, we interviewed Jose Andres today. It was good. Like, good? Are you kidding? It was amazing! Tell them it was amazing. And I think your own enthusiasm, and your own investment in that story and how you feel about it, matter. People don’t listen—in the same way you tell stories, pitch your story that way. And don’t just go in and say, you know, just what you said to me. We have this thing, and it’s going to be globally—I found this amazing connection. And this person—I mean, go in with the same way you’ll tell that story to your listeners, and the same enthusiasm and investment that you have.

I mean, they’re not going to, unless it is an incredible story with a connection, send you over to, you know, Dubai to see whatever connection there is there. They might. I mean, maybe you can, whatever, go over on a military flight, or whatever you can do. But it’s the way you have to pitch it too. Your enthusiasm will help them understand that. And if they don’t want it, try again. I mean, it’s—being relentless really is not a bad thing. And selling yourselves. I hate to say it, but it’s true. I mean, you have to sell your ideas. Trust me, I don’t always get what I want. And I didn’t in local news, and I don’t in network news. I have a lot of competition for the same stories, the same thing I was saying about, you know, bake your own cake. It’s you just have to really care about it. And have your characters, have your—have it laid out in that same way you tell the story.

FROMAN: Also, Martha’s agreed to call each of your editors—(laughter)—this woman right here at the second table.

Q: Hi. My name is Megan Alley. I’m the editor of the Clermont Sun in Clermont County, Ohio, being the county adjacent to Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is.

But we have such a small staff and limited resources at our newspaper. What is your opinion, and then perhaps approach, to sharing other news organizations’ reporting in an effort to—

RADDATZ: Consolidate?

Q: Yeah, consolidate, and get to a more focused story that might be relevant to our readers? How do you—how—

RADDATZ: So who would you share with?

Q: Or share—I’m sorry—citing other news organizations as a way to sort of build off of a story.

RADDATZ: Oh, I don’t—most news organizations have a problem with that. I personally don’t. Like, great, Erin Burnett interviewed President Biden. I’m going to put that on. And I’m going to say, Erin Burnett interviewed President Biden. I also think it’s a little blurry to people anyway. I don’t mind—I know news organizations don’t love that, that you didn’t get it yourself. But, exactly as you say, your staffs are smaller. It’s—I thought you meant, like, why don’t we all just share writer, and be one big, happy family—

Q: Sorry, I should have been more clear.

RADDATZ: And I think that takes away competition, which I think is important and a motivator. But, yeah. Cite them. I mean, you know, there’s nothing like—the New York Times will spend, you know, twelve months doing something with ninety-six reporters. And can you match that story? No. I can’t match that story, OK? (Laughter.) And I’m going to cite the New York Times. I mean, it’s—you just have to. And I also think, honestly, wow. People do amazing work. And the New York Times, on the stories that they’ve done, and their visual verification stuff, and the drone strikes, it’s just incredible. Just incredible. I mean, we should be proud of our colleagues and what they do. I mean, you don’t want to—you want to do it yourself, right? But, sure, if other people do it and it’s newsworthy? Yeah.

Q: Thank you.

FROMAN: Last question. This gentleman.

Q: Hi. I’m Reuben Jones. I’m a reporter with Spectrum News in D.C. I cover Congress for local TV stations around the country.

RADDATZ: I thought you looked familiar, actually. (Laughs.)

Q: Oh, we met, yeah, once before. Yeah. (Laughs.)

RADDATZ: Yes. I was looking at you and I thought, I know him?

Q: I wanted to ask you, I’ve noticed an increase in members of Congress and on the local level too, talking with local government officials, of PR folks demanding more specific questions for interviews. Obviously, I always say no to that. But I’m just curious in terms of the conversations you sometimes have with these lawmakers that might be contentious interviews on ABC This Week, or whatever, to get the interview but not scare them off as well from not doing the interview.

RADDATZ: I think the same—the same applies. I mean, have—talking points, you know, I mean, I live with talking points every Sunday. And they come on, and you do whatever you can to get them off it. I’m not going to scream at someone. I mean, they’re—you know, they’re big boys, big girls. They can—they want to come on the Sunday show, it’s wide open. Topics? Fine. I’m happy to say we’re going to talk about the week’s news, OK? We’re going to talk about Speaker Johnson. We’re going to talk about this. We’re going to talk about specific questions. I mean, truth is they kind of know. And some people are really good at it. Really, really good at it, and still—but other times, I’ll walk away and think, oh man, it was pure talking points.

And I always—my approach has always been, I don’t really want to be part of the story whether it’s moderating debates, which I have done. And so at what point, you know, do you ask the person eleven times if—twelve times, thirteen times the same question? I have faith that the viewers get the idea? (Laughs.) Not answering the question. But I’ve never really had anybody storm off. I do think there’s a point where you can be too annoying, if that makes sense. I mean, it’s like, come on. They’re not going to answer. Just let your readers or your listeners decide. I’ve pushed it. I’ve tried. I’ve asked good questions. You know, at some point—there was something recently that somebody walked away. And I thought, they didn’t—that that person just kept going, going, going, going. We get the idea. Does that makes sense? OK.

FROMAN: You’ve been one of the few journalists who flew in an F-15 in a combat mission in Afghanistan. You reported from a secret anti-ISIS command center. You reported from North Korea in 2018. You broke the Zarqawi story. What is your all-time favorite story that you did?

RADDATZ: My all-time favorite is—

FROMAN: Love all your children equally, of course.

RADDATZ: I mean, the most—the most thrilling was the F-15, without question. Because that was—I mean, it was an actual combat mission. And I was Goose in the back. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: Did you get to, like, push a button or anything?

RADDATZ: I mean, he let me fly a jet for it for a minute, but—turn us around. But it’s—and I spent about ten hours over two days in the jet. So that was fascinating on, you know, not only, oh my gosh, I’m up in a fighter jet and we’re refueling—which is great because, you know, the refueler comes right next to you. And I found myself say going like this as if that would make any difference.

But my favorite story is what I was talking about, is with these soldiers from—that we just did their reunion after twenty years. Because it just is such a powerful human piece. They were in a battle and lost eight guys the first night. They were ambushed. And it was pretty early on in the war, when it just hadn’t happened. And it was so stunning. And one of the guys, Troy Denomy, who was a young captain at the time had a four-day-old baby. I mean, you know, went from the Humvee to the—or, from the—from the minivan to the Humvee. So it was just—to me, it was so eye opening about who the military is.

And I have just tracked these guys for twenty years. Gary Volesky, who was the battalion commander that night, retired as a three-star general a couple of years ago. Troy Denomy is just about to get a star. But others have terrible PTSD to this day, terrible—100 percent emotional out. And I said to them at this reunion that I think what they have done in twenty years, the people who suffer from PTSD because of this horrible battle, is more courageous than what they did that night. I mean, because they get up every day and they want to live.

It was also made into an eight-part National Geographic miniseries. So that was just phenomenal to see. And, you know, I know the Gold Star families. And I’m close to many of them as well. And it’s the most meaningful thing that I’ve done in my life, because I think it’s the most—it changed their lives, in many ways. And I think they’re so proud that it was written about and on NatGeo. It just—it they mean the world to me. So.

FROMAN: We are so fortunate to have you as a leader in our media.

RADDATZ: Thank you.

FROMAN: We’re so grateful to have you here with us. Please join me in thanking Martha Raddatz. (Applause.)

RADDATZ: Before I go, can I just say two seconds? Please keep doing what you’re doing. I mean, I’m so proud to be here with you. I really do think all journalism starts where you are, and you’re the eyes of the country. Thank you. (Applause.)


Top Stories on CFR


Against a backdrop of widespread violence, a record number of voters will look to elect Mexico’s first woman president in a June election that polls predict will go to Claudia Sheinbaum.


In his inaugural address, Taiwan’s new president Lai Ching-te signaled broad continuity on cross-strait issues. China, however, is likely to respond with increased pressure. 

Election 2024

The European Union (EU) began implementing the Digital Services Act (DSA) this year, just in time to combat online disinformation and other electoral interference in the dozens of elections taking pl…