Born in 1980s rural Northern Ireland, I was raised on a small farm close to the border between the north and the south. My childhood years were a violent time in Northern Ireland, during the era of 'The Troubles', and I was shaped not only by the political turmoil around my community, but also by the crucial role played by journalists covering the stories of violence and suffering.
As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend The Lawrenceville School, near Princeton, New Jersey, before returning to the UK to study at York University in England. There I majored in Politics and English Literature and worked on the school’s award-winning newspaper, York Vision. After graduating in 2007 I travelled to Yemen where I lived and studied Arabic, while adventuring around the country on weekends.
Later that year, I took a job in Dubai as a reporter at the English language newspaper Gulf News until 2009 when I began reporting for CNN International. Global terror was on the rise and I covered Al Qaeda franchises in some of the most dangerous but underreported hotspots in the region, such as Somalia, Yemen and the African Sahel.
Traveling to Mogadishu in 2010 to embed with African Union forces fighting the Al Qaeda-linked group Al Shabab, I became the first journalist working for a US TV network to report from inside Somalia since the UN pulled out in the 1990s. Returning to Mogadishu for CNN in 2011, I reported from the front lines of the battle to push the Islamist group, Al Shabab out of the city. Also in 2011 I was the only foreign journalist on the ground inside Somalia as famine was declared. In that same year, I traveled to the remote border region between North and South Sudan to cover the flood of refugees fleeing violence ahead of South Sudan's independence.
Later in 2011 I moved to Al Jazeera English as a roving international correspondent; once again leading from the front as the only foreign broadcaster in Yemen during the revolution that forced dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
In early 2012 I was among the first foreign journalists to be smuggled into rebel held Homs city in Syria where I reported on the Assad Government's brutal crackdown against protestors. After that, I went on to report extensively for Al Jazeera across the globe, covering wars, revolutions and humanitarian stories in countries including Bangladesh, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya and Lebanon. During my time as Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan correspondent, from 2013 through 2014, I lived and worked in Kabul and reported extensively from across the country.
In 2015 I began working for PBS NewsHour as a Middle East-based International Correspondent reporting and producing magazine-length, in-depth stories for the show. I led the network's coverage of the military offensive against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In 2017 my work from Iraq was part of a collection of PBS stories that were awarded a Citation from the Overseas Press Club Awards. In the same year I reported from across South Sudan as famine gripped the war-torn country.
In 2018 I returned to Yemen and gained exclusive access to the rebel-held part of the country where a US-backed, Saudi-led coalition was waging war against Iranian-backed rebels. By dressing in Yemeni women's clothing and traveling with a native family I was able to smuggle across the front lines, to the northern half of the country, where journalists are banned by Saudi-allied forces. My reports exposed the devastating extent of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, including the starvation of tens of thousands of children and babies. Later that year, I followed-up with another trip to Yemen to report once again on the growing crisis.
My work has been awarded the prestigious George Polk Award, an Emmy Award, and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award. I have also been nominated for a Peabody Award and shortlisted for a Livingston Award, which recognizes excellence in investigative reporting by journalists under 35 years of age.
I am a grantee of the Pulitzer Center and regularly partner with the organization for my overseas reporting.
I was a McGraw Professor of Journalism at Princeton University for the Fall 2020 Semester where I was invited to design and teach a course on war reporting.
A regular contributor to The New Yorker and file reports and analysis fromSomalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon on war, politics, and US foreign policy.