Time Magazine: 1958-1982
I joined Time as a reporter in Atlanta, Ga., during the conflict over segregation, traveling to different parts of the south as crises erupted.
I was transferred to the home office in New York City, where I was soon assigned to writing book reviews, largely on political and historical subjects. Authors included Albert Camus, Milovan Djilas, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who responded to my review of his book Between Two Ages: “You not only highlight most effectively the points I consider most important, but you state them in a manner which is better than my own.”
From books I moved to the press section, describing the ups and downs of the nation’s newspapers and magazines. I occasionally traveled to various cities to talk to editors about their papers, an important element of our nation. I noted at a 1974 conference at Pace University: “As the media has acquired more power and importance, it has become more homogenized – less diversity of coverage and opinion.”
In my last several years at Time, I wrote national and international stories, including essays on the Panama Canal controversy, utopian schemes for humanity, reforming the CIA, for which I received an award from CIA Director Richard Helms. I wrote cover stories on the new era in China, the black middle class in America, the outbreak of youth crime. In the publisher’s letter to this cover story, he noted: “Active in his Manhattan block Association, he has intervened in numerous street crimes and has then gone to testify in court. He was commended by a grand jury.”
Voice of America: 1983-2005
As a reporter-analyst, I traveled to and reported on all the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus along with Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Israel, the West Bank, India, Pakistan, Indonesia. Even in time of war – Azerbaijan, Aceh – I was able to get to my sources and was invariably treated well, contrary to some beliefs about Muslim hostility. In 1992 in Tajikistan, considered “the most dangerous country in the world for journalists” by the Committee To Protect Journalists, I was able to interview both sides in the war and alone among reporters, I believe, discovered that the forces aiming to overthrow the post communist Islamic government were led by a Russian tank commander.
I wrote many scripts on Islam, its prospects, its enemies. I also analyzed US foreign policy, its motivations and interventions.
As head of the “Focus” unit at VOA, I worked with a staff of writers covering various parts of the world and tried to convey to them any of my experience that would be useful. One writer, Brent Hurd, later commented at American University: “For three years I had the extreme good fortune of working under Ed Warner. I saw pressure at VOA that was at times intense. But Ed always kept truth at the core of our writing.”
In my last years at the Voice, I helped organize staff protests at steep proposed cuts in our language units, and shortly after retirement wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun on the need to maintain an independent, reliable VOA, a crucial part, in my opinion, of our foreign policy.
Over the years I wrote and broadcast extensively on Afghanistan. I worked closely with the Dari and Pashto broadcasting units at VOA under Spozhmai Maiwandi and Ali Jalali, later interior minister of post-Taliban Afghanistan. I made three trips to Afghanistan, the first in 1999 when the Taliban were in power. I interviewed some of their top leaders, including a minister who was under cover for the CIA and was later assassinated. I found a few of these leaders quite moderate. The Taliban foreign minister, for instance, is now working with the U.S. in Kabul. Perhaps there was a basis for talks, which never took place.
I made my second trip after the US invasion where I found much relief from the departure of the Taliban but uncertainty about the future. I took the third in 2007 after retiring from VOA and wrote an article on it for the April ’08 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. I made the point there is an urgent need for a coherent U.S. plan for Afghanistan.
I remain in touch with Afghan friends and sources who offer views on ending the war and establishing an enduring peace.