Friday, June 07, 2002

Reporter knows danger of war zone

Butler native covering India-Pakistan conflict

By Steve Eder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Butler County native Paul Alexander says he isn't nervous about being stationed in what could become ground zero of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India.

        In fact, the veteran Associated Press reporter jokingly claims his biggest risks while reporting from Pakistan are “probably a traffic accident or bad curry.”

        Mr. Alexander, 47, a graduate of Edgewood High School, is ion a monthlong assignment reporting on the India-Pakistan conflict and also the trial of a man accused of murdering journalist Daniel Pearl. While he sounds calm about his third assignment in the country, he acknowledges that most people there aren't.

        “Everyone is really nervous; we are making estimations of how far we are from what could be ground zero and how accurate Indian missiles are,” he said in a telephone interview. “We don't think it would take a whole lot to set it off.”

        Mr. Alexander is familiar with dangerous, high-tension situations. He has reported for the worldwide news organization from Bosnia, Philippines, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea and Vietnam during an AP career that spans more than 20 years.

        “I have done a lot of nasty stuff before,” he said. “I'm pretty well-versed in what the risks are.”

        He characterizes the risks in Pakistan as “pretty minimal” compared to past assignments. “But if I get vaporized tomorrow, I might not be so willing to say that,” he said.

        The risks are most difficult for family left behind, says Mr. Alexander, who doesn't tell his 70-year-old mother when he reports from dangerous areas.

        “I just feel that telling her makes her feel more nervous than she needs to be,” he said. “It is always worse if you are the one that stays behind.”

        Linda Sanders, who has been friends with Mr. Alexander for more than 20 years, says that she keeps in touch with him when he is on assignment through e-mail, but it doesn't ease her fears.

        “You watch the world events unfolding with a closer eye; that it might have an immediate closer effect,” said Ms. Sanders, 44, of Madisonville.

        It has been especially difficult for Ms. Sanders since the murder of Mr. Pearl, who was on assignment for the Wall Street Journal in Pakistan when he was kidnapped. “I can't help but read the headlines and worry about it,” she said. “When he is in Pakistan, the danger is more immediate.”

        The murder of Mr. Pearl sticks in the back of Mr. Alexander's mind, too, as he works far away from home.

        “I am more aware when I am walking on the streets,” he said, adding that a Pakistani recently spat at him.


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