Joshua Rogin, the first to report on leaked Obama aid reform plans, stays grounded

    Joshua Rogin, staff writer for Foreign Policy. Photo by: personal collection

    Most of the time, it seems a person needs to experience life in a lower-income country to appreciate the importance of international development. Reporter Joshua Rogin is an exception – and a good one.

    “I’m a working reporter, and development is part of my beat,” he says. “I started writing about it a lot and became really interested through that.”

    Rogin can ask the right questions of the right people to get to the bottom of just about any complex issue on the agenda in Congress or at the White House. That knack comes straight from his work ethic.

    “It’s to get out there and shine as much light on the process being conducted by the government as possible because those connected to the policies have a right to know,” Rogin says.

    Earlier this year, Rogin obtained and published a draft version of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development, an internal document outlining the Obama administration’s foreign assistance reform plans. The ensuing debate has helped development workers in the field to bolster their arguments for funding. Rogin’s coverage for Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog has revealed how responses to crises in places like Haiti have affected development in other parts of the world and have provided a venue for those impacted by policies to air their views.

    And yet, Rogin’s humility is striking, as evinced by his response when asked if he ever wished he could have the front-line field experience so many journalists crave.

    “There are a lot of brave reporters covering what’s on the ground. I have the cushy job of the two,” Rogin said. “The people who put their safety on the line are the brave ones.”

    According to Rogin, navigating his way through a wide array of competing interests in Washington is exciting enough for now.

    “Everyone involved in administration, on the Hill, and the people in the NGO community are all working with good intentions but often have different concepts of how to move forward,” he noted. “The challenge is how to be fair in representing all those different voices.”

    The fact that he continues to obtain excellent access to government officials is one sure sign he’s doing it right. The other is the response he receives from overseas.

    “I think the most rewarding part is receiving e-mails from professionals doing development work in other countries who read about work in the capital and feel that what they’re doing is connected to what’s going on back here in Washington,” he said. “I find it totally fascinating to be contributing to the conversation in a small way.”

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    About the author

    • Julienne Gage

      As a freelance journalist and broadcast news producer based in Miami and Washington, Julienne contributes regularly to Devex. Her graduate studies in anthropology and journalism included research on youth development in Latin America and immigration in Spain.