‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ journalist to speak to graduates


On May 15, Kim Barker, a journalist for “The New York Times,” will be the guest speaker at the 158th commencement service for Susquehanna.
Barker will be speaking on the Susquehanna theme for this past academic year, which was adventure.

“We believe Kim Barker has a story to share with the class of 2016 which encourages ‘adventure,’” said Joann Mieres, assistant to President Lemons. “Her recent movie ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ brought her own ‘adventure’ story to the forefront in 2016.”

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is based on Barker’s memoir “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The film features Tina Fey, Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thorton.

Barker’s memoir reflects her stories as the South Asia bureau chief for the “Chicago Tribune” from 2004 to 2009.

Barker’s book reveals that she began her work in Afghanistan and Pakistan slowly.

According to her website, Barker knew little about the political and social phenomena in the Middle East when she first arrived.

She was inexperienced with the area, but during her journey she discovered her love for both nations and fear for their future stability.

The memoir is wry and poignant, but also darkly comical. It draws attention to the absurdities and tragedies that have occurred in Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially those that were overlooked by mainstream media.

“I think she has a lot to teach us about courage,” said senior Catherine Tomkiel, who is graduating as a double-major in mathematics and physics. “She had the spirit to fight against cultural norms and the image the media often likes to portray. That should inspire us,” Tomkiel said.

“Kim’s story is one of courage and responding to the call of ‘adventure.’ In many ways it echoes the advice that Susquehanna’s Board Chair, John Strangfeld, gives students when he says that ‘Life ain’t linear,’” Mieres said.

While she was the South Asia bureau chief for the “Chicago Tribune,” Barker not only covered stories in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also in India.
Upon leaving the position, Barker became the Edward R. Murrow press fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Kim Barker

Her career then took her to cover nonprofit and campaign finance for the investigative, nonprofit news outlet ProPublica. According to Mieres, Barker joined “The New York Times” in 2014, focusing on reporting for the metro desk.
According to her website, Barker has won many awards, most recently the Front Page Award for Journalist of the Year in 2015. Barker was also honored with the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Sociey of Professional Journalists in 2013. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations as well.

Her works have been featured in “The Daily Beast,” “The Washington Post” and “The Atlantic.” Mieres stated that Barker has also been featured on The Colbert Report, CNN and MSNBC.

“Her story inspires even those who have nothing to keep going,” said senior biology major Alexandria Scharadin. “As seniors entering a new part of our lives with financial debt and a world of unknowns, she’s the kind of person who can remind us that anything is possible as long as we keep trying and don’t give up.”

“She has the insight into courage,” said Tomkiel. “I expect she’ll remind us that we can keep going, no matter what happens.”

Mieres said, “you never know where life will take you, but if you are open to the possibilities, it can take you to amazing and fulfilling places.”

Commencement will be held May 15 in the James W. Garrett Sports Complex Field House at 2:30 p.m.

Further information about the event is available through the Office of Event Management at 570-372-4354.