Pakistani Journalist Finds Hockey and Hope in Minnesota
Having grown up in one of the oldest cities on the Indian subcontinent, you might not expect English words to come so easily to Gharidah Farooqi. But they do. Especially when describing her experience at a recent Wild hockey game.
(PHOTO: Gharidah Farooqi is second from the left. Also pictured left to right are 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS producers Tim Burns, Molly Andersen, and Amanda Theisen)
When talking about a last-minute Erik Christensen goal that tied the game, or about the Miko Koivu goal that won the game in overtime, Farooqi uses words like "amazing" and "really exciting."
Strong words given what she's seen in her career as a journalist.
Her first field assignment was in 2005, covering an earthquake that killed 79,000 in Pakistan's Kashmir region. More recently, she reported on the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs .
Farooqi is spending time at 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM as part of the U.S./Pakistan Professional Partnership Program. Created in 2009, the U.S. State Department describes it as part of a "U.S. strategy to bring peace and stability in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region."
Farooqi is part of the fourth group of Pakistani journalists to visit the United States since the program began, and the second to visit 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM. One group of American journalists has also traveled to Pakistan. The goal, says the State Department, is "to develop cross cultural relationships and develop professional skills that will postively impact people's lives and will result in stronger ties between the two nations."
Farooqi hopes Minnesotans will ask her about her country, rather than rely on the images they see on TV.
"Pakistan is so much more than O.B.L. (Osama bin Laden)," said Farooqi.
She's also learning the United States is more than what she's seen on CNN and the Fox News Channel.
"Americans are great people to work with," she said, describing the people she's met during her time here as "friendly" and "professional." After a week here, she found many similarities with the newsrooms where she's worked. But, she did find one difference that really struck a chord with her.
"I see a lot of women working in the newsroom," she said. "We don't have that in my country."
Farooqi said very few women had reported major stories in Pakistan when she was sent to cover the 2005 earthquake. At the time, she was working for Pakistan TV, a state-run organization she says held a virtual monopoly on the news business up until a decade ago.
She says the rise of private television stations, first broadcasting from outside of Pakistan, and now from within, is slowly changing the landscape for women in journalism. She sees it happening at Geo News, where she now works as an anchor and reporter.
But looking at the diversity of the staff in the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM newsroom, led by News Director Lindsay Radford, she sees more room for improvement back home.
"We need to learn this in my country," she said.
Farooqi's work on Geo News is broadcast all over Pakistan. It can also be seen via cable and satellite in the United Arab Emirates, parts of Europe, Canada, and here in the United States.
And, if you wondered why English words come so easily to her, (as I did), credit her early schooling. In her hometown of Multan, she attended a mission school where she was taught by British nuns.