Journalist Antonia Noori Farzan ’11 has worked as a reporter for The Washington Post since 2018, and at the moment helps to anchor the newspaper’s pandemic coverage. She came to The Post from the Phoenix New Times, where she and co-worker Joseph Flaherty won a prestigious George Polk Award for their investigative work. Farzan agreed to answer some questions for us about her career.
What is the best part about being a reporter at The Washington-Post?
This is probably true for any journalism job, but it’s a really great excuse to learn about any random topic that interests you, from maritime law to the vagaries of the Swiss citizenship process. Doing background research for a story — especially when it involves digging into the historical record — is easily the most fun part of the reporting process.
You majored in classics at Hamilton and went on to get a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia. How did you discover that you wanted to be a journalist?
I took a lot of creative writing classes at Hamilton, and my professor, Jane Springer, inspired me to pursue writing as a career. Although I’d anticipated applying for MFA programs after graduation and had never really thought about journalism, I ended up becoming a regular contributor to a newspaper in my hometown because an editor there generously took a chance on me and began giving me assignments. That experience, plus reading a lot of great narrative and magazine-style journalism, made me realize that I really wanted to focus on nonfiction.
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What story have you covered or person you have interviewed that you know you’ll never forget?
I probably have to go with the story that I wrote with a colleague while I was at the Phoenix New Times, which revealed that Motel 6 was handing over information about their guests to ICE, and allowing undocumented immigrants to be swept up in early-morning raids. That led to a bunch of lawsuits, one of which just settled for $10 million earlier this year.
What question do you wish someone would ask you about your career?
No one ever asks me what I’d do differently! If I had known I’d end up becoming a reporter, I would have tried to learn to speak a second language fluently while I was at Hamilton, and also taken more classes in history and government so that I wouldn’t always have to be learning this stuff on the fly.