On December 8th, graduate student Katie Riordan was recognized for her promise as an international correspondent when she received the Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholar Award. The recognition was accompanied by the chance to spend her summer break doing international reporting, through a fellowship at a foreign bureau.

photo of Katie Riordan
Katie Riordan is a graduate student at the University of Montana School of Journalism. Photo by Katy Spence.

Bureaus run by the Associated Press, Reuters, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal or the Global Post are all possibilities for Riordan. Wherever she ends up, it won’t be her first time filing stories from foreign soil.

Riordan completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she majored in broadcast journalism. Post graduation, she did a few stints at community newspapers in New York City.

In 2012, she left the United States to take a job as an editor at an English language paper in Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia. Riordan had traveled and lived abroad before, but says the move wasn’t a calculated decision. Her reasons for moving to Yemen reveal a deep wanderlust and interest in other cultures.

“You can read all about it but being there, living there and reporting there is the experience,” Riordan said.

After more than a year at the English language newspaper, Riordan left and began freelancing. Over the course of six months she wrote stories on women’s rights, refugees and migrants and a variety of human interest stories. Her work was published in the Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera, the Economist and the Middle East Eye, an online news organization based out of England.

Riordan continues to contribute to the Christian Science Monitor, with an article on Syrian refugees in Somaliland published just days before she received her award.

Freelancing was a challenge at first, but being on the ground in countries of international interest helped her. “It’s hard to build relationships with editors, but once you do and can demonstrate that you can produce work from your location things start to snowball,” she said.

Returning to the U.S., she came to the Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism Masters program to hone her reporting skills and develop a specialty in environmental reporting. While Riordan says she misses life abroad, she’s been enjoying her classes and has a story in the upcoming 2016 Montana Journalism Review about tensions between the Department of Defense and reporters in war zones.

Next semester Riordan hopes to supplement her journalism and environmental science coursework with classes in Arabic, in order to build on her language base and improve her eligibility for reporting from the Middle East.

But today, she’s excited at being recognized by the Overseas Press Club, and anticipates a productive summer abroad, wherever in the world it may take her.

“It’s a really prestigious organization, and I’m looking forward to getting back overseas to do some reporting on the ground,” Riordan said.

You can get an advanced read of Riordan’s upcoming story in the Montana Journalism Review here.

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