Kaveh Waddell '09: Pulling back the curtain in an era of uncertainty
Photo courtesy Kaveh Waddell '09.
A former reporter at The Atlantic and National Journal, Waddell is a Beirut-based freelance reporter who writes about Lebanon for American publications, including The Atlantic, Wired, and CityLab. www.kavehwaddell.com
by Lornet Turnbull
In the newsroom at The Atlantic, where Waddell honed his journalism skills, the staff had frequent, ongoing discussions about how to cover Donald Trump’s America.
The influential D.C.-based magazine had considered, but resisted, the temptation to take on a more liberal slant. And in an atmosphere of heightened scrutiny of the media, Waddell says, “It was really drilled into our heads as writers and reporters to do our job even better than before because even a small mistake, whether in a cover story in the magazine or technology piece, reflects on everybody.”
He had worked his way onto the staff of The Atlantic after a fellowship with its affiliate, National Journal. After the Journal went through layoffs and buyouts, and eventually suspended its print edition, The Atlantic kept him on, assigning him to its technology desk to cover privacy and surveillance.
In the post-election political environment, Waddell says it was even more important to find social angles to the stories he wrote, examining how technology affects areas of socioeconomic inequality and race.
In May 2017, he left the Atlantic to live in Beirut - the fulfillment of a desire sparked in his youth by his family’s frequent travel around the world, including to his mother’s native Iran - and nurtured by teachers at Lakeside. With his longstanding interest in the Middle East, he says, “the goal was to come and write about the region for an American audience.”
He believes the strategy by U.S. news organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post to take readers behind the curtain will, in the long term, inspire trust.
Showing “how the sausage is made” has always been useful, he says, but in this era of uncertainty it’s becoming common. An example is how The Washington Post shared details of what went into its investigation of the sexual-harassment allegations against Alabama senatorial hopeful Roy Moore.
“There’s more journalistic metadata on stories these days … It shows that journalists are going out of their way to prove their work is airtight and bulletproof. It’s necessary to bring the reader into how it’s made so they buy into it and make their own judgment, but doing so with the information they need.”
Since publication, Waddell has returned to the U.S. to cover emerging technology for Axios.
Lornet Turnbull is a Seattle-based freelance writer and regional anchor for The Washington Post. She’s a former reporter for The Seattle Times and a writer and editor for YES! Magazine. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.