- By Elizabeth DickinsonElizabeth Dickinson is author of the Kindle Single Who Shot Ahmed? A Mystery Unravels in Bahrain's Botched Arab Spring, from which this excerpt was adapted. She is a former FP assistant managing editor.
As some may know, this is my last day at Foreign Policy. After three great years here, I’m heading back to the field to report from the Middle East. But before I go, it’s worth sharing a few of the things that I’ve learned from being here at FP and seeing how the news is made "behind the curtains."
The world is not a boring place. In case there was any doubt in your mind, we have a lot of fun at FP. Yes, we are serious too; yes, the world is a fraught with countless complex and mind-boggling conflicts and phenomena. But there’s always a way to talk about them that isn’t mind-bogglingly hard to follow. And usually, when you look for the new insights that reject that over-talked conventional wisdoms, you end up finding the most important angles.
Look for weak signals. Our former editor in chief Moises Naím taught us all something very important about how to read the world: behind the lines. Think of all the major news events of the last several years — for example the Arab Spring or the financial crisis. Long before these words had any meaning, their origins were boiling up below the surface. It was a rare observer who could put the pieces together and anticipate the trend. It’s what the best reporters and analysts should strive for.
Always ask why it matters. We live in busy times. Bandwidths are stretched, crises abound, and there’s just no way to absorb it all. Step back from the details — however compelling or heart-wrenching — and imagine what you would want to know if you didn’t care. I don’t mean dumb it down or make it all about the Americans. But think big about how the small stuff threads into the global fabric. They always do. And if you figure out how, those non-carers might start to feel differently.
Say thank you. Ok, ok, I know this isn’t a life advice column. But seriously. No matter where you are, who you’re with, or what language you are speaking, you’ll learn more about this crazy world if you appreciate humanity in one short sentence. And so with that, here’s my thank you to FP — for all I’ve learned and for all you’ve taught me. Keep reading!