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Meet the Real Kim Barker

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By SAMANTHA REPOSA
PHOTO EDITOR
srepo2@unh.newhaven.edu

 
If you’re a journalist, you go to where the story takes you; it’s what you do. If you’re Kim Barker and the story takes you to Afghanistan, you go; it’s what you do.

While working as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Barker was left with a decision to make after the September 11 terrorist attacks as news outlets all over the country were looking to send correspondents overseas to the Middle East to cover the crisis first hand in various war zones.

“When I am faced with two choices I always pick the one that scares me a little more,” Barker said, “the more risky challenge.”

Having never really been out of the country before and not knowing the language or culture, Barker packed up her life in the United States hap-hazardly, and moved across the world to start her new journey as a foreign correspondent.

“It wasn’t really a culture shock,” Barker said, “when traveling you have to be open to trying new things in a new way.”

Foreign journalists tend to bend over backwards to ensure that they are getting the most captivating story, which more often than not, is the most dangerous story. Barker stresses that in these situations, it is most important to be safe by making sure you spend enough on security to be able to go to where the biggest story takes you to make a name for yourself.

“Make sure to have a lot of people to check what you are doing and a lot of people to have your back,” said Barker.

Barker ran into one risky situation upon meeting with a war lord for an interview without telling anyone what she was doing, only to discover the same war lord kidnapped a couple of journalists working for American news outlets prior to the interview.

While on an embed, a program where journalists follow military units, with U.S. soldiers, Barker wrote an article on how the soldiers felt bored and “missed out on the Iraq action,” which received much feedback in the states. Soon after the article was published, the military unit she was with and grew close to was moved to a more dangerous area in Iraq where threats of fatality were more prominent.

“You can never judge the fallout or what it’s going to be,” Barker said, who later learned about the effect of her article on the platoon and their lives.

Barker grew and learned a lot from the people whose paths she crossed while covering Afghanistan and Pakistan. She learned how to be alone and realize she could handle any situation thrown at her. She also learned a lot on hospitality after experiencing a culture where the people were willing to give more than they have. One instance that stands out to Barker was after an earthquake a family, who had nothing, took her in and provided blankets, a generator and meals, despite the family’s fasting period due to Ramadan.

Barker also had the opportunity to bear witness to history in real time. She was able to see the governments rebuild themselves and experience a country’s redevelopment first hand as they rose from their ashes.

Angry about what was going on overseas, Barker wanted to share her experiences in a way the American people would actually understand and read, so chose to write a memoir on her time as a foreign correspondent. The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan carries a darkly comical tone, but still grants the reader with an eyewitness account on the realities of the Middle East.

When the initial review of Barker’s book was released, critics compared her dark humor to that of Tina Fey and soon enough Fey’s agents got wind of the comparison and production for a film was in place.

Barker’s memoir has now been produced into a film starring Fey entitled Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which presents a visual to her narrative.

“Tina Fey carries a lot of weight,” Barker said, “She’s an awesome person who is funny, smart, and more serious in real life,” which relieved her after being skeptical the film would carry a more comical tone bypassing the intended message.

The film takes on a fictional representation of Barker’s story where Fey plays a broadcast journalist, Kim Baker, who decides to go oversees to escape and start new from the mundane, depressing life she was living.

In theatres now, be sure to go see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to get an inside look on a foreign correspondent’s experience covering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Meet the Real Kim Barker