She'll always have Baghdad

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In Twin Cities media circles, taking potshots at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and parent company Knight Ridder is popular, if somewhat cruel sport. The paper has opened itself to a lot of legitimate criticisms in recent years. It has titled rightward, it has more or less abandoned coverage of Minneapolis and it has slapped around its employees with an unseemly zeal.

All that said, the Pi Press has produced plenty of good reporters. Take Hannah Allam. Two years ago, Allam was chasing crime stories in the suburbs of the Saintly City, a righteous if not entirely thrilling gig. Then she rolled the dice and accepted a job with the Knight-Ridder bureau in Baghdad, where she won accolades and eventually rose to the position of bureau chief.

A few weeks back, she caused a stir in the blogosphere when she excoriated Pi Press editorial page writer Mark Yost for his boneheaded attacks on the Baghdad press corps.

This week, Allam announced that she would be leaving Iraq for Cairo. And who can blame her? A few observervations from her interview with Editor and Publisher:

"When I first started, there was a real collegial press corp," she explained. "We knew Iraq was dangerous, but not for us. In the old days, we could travel, the coverage could be comprehensive and complete and you could have a life. Go out to karaoke at night or to parties."

But, in the past few months, Allam said the atmosphere had dramatically changed for journalists. "It suddenly came that you couldn't travel," she said. "You begin to wonder if you can give your readers a full picture. It is extremely difficult and not as much fun."


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