Job: National security reporter, The Washington Post
SMC degree: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, 1982
Current city: Centreville, Va.
A piece of advice: “Build those core skills of being able to ask good questions, absorb information and be able to sort out what’s important versus what’s trivial.”
It was the lead up to the second war in Iraq. The nation was abuzz with talk of weapons of mass destruction and how the regime of Saddam Hussein was a danger to the Middle East.
Joby Warrick, a reporter at The Washington Post, was assigned to assess these claims and their potential impact on the world.
“It felt like the country was just running off of a cliff toward disaster,” he says.
Warrick quizzed his sources and scoured the facts of the situation, but could not find solid evidence of imminent danger. “I felt inadequate as a reporter.”
But that’s when Warrick work shifted and he became one of the first reporters in the nation to write articles questioning the Bush administration’s alleged evidence.
He was called unpatriotic by some of his readers and was questioned by other journalists.
“At the time, it was a pretty lonely place to be,” he says. “You really have to have a thick skin.”
It was many, many months until the press and the nation came to grips with the fact that there was no evidence that Iraq ever had weapons of mass destruction. He hopes some of the people who accused him of having ulterior motives have since realized that “the agenda is to try to write good stories. We really want to try to get as close to facts as we can.”
Warrick, a 15-year veteran of the Post, is now the paper’s national security reporter. Over the past year, he has been reporting on intelligence and diplomacy in the Middle East, a beat he was assigned just before the “Arab spring,” when the region experienced what he calls “a healthy outbreak of democracy.”
He has also written a book, “The Triple Agent,” the true story of a Jordanian who infiltrated al Qaeda and the CIA.
Warrick’s path to the Post started after Temple at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Delaware County Daily Times. From there, he worked as a reporter and Vienna, Austria, bureau chief for United Press International, during which time he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall.
From there, he moved on to The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., where his career reached a pinnacle. Warrick was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for “Boss Hog,” a series that documented factory farming’s impact on politics and the environment in the Southeast.
“It seemed almost a joke to fill out the [Pulitzer] paperwork,” he recalls.
And when Warrick received the news that the series had advanced in the process, he was ready to celebrate and move on. “This is it,” he thought. “I can say for the rest of my life that I was a finalist for the Pulitzer.”
The announcement that the series had won was a shock. He didn’t take on the “Boss Hog” investigation to win prizes – “as a journalist and a person, it felt like something that just needed to be done.”
Now, with his eyes and ears focused on the world stage, Warrick is constantly reminded of the importance of the issues about which he is writing.
“It does make you think about every sentence and every paragraph,” he says. “They’re all issues of war and peace. We have to understand the implications of our words.”