Mary Kay Magistad

Mary Kay Magistad is formerly The World’s East Asia correspondent. She lived and reported in the region for two decades. Mary Kay is now based in San Francisco.

During her time in Asia, she traveled regularly and widely throughout China and beyond, exploring how China’s rapid transformation has affected individual lives and exploring the bigger geopolitical, economic and environmental implications of China’s rise. She stepped back every so often to do an in-depth series on such topics as the China’s urbanization — the biggest and most rapid move from the countryside to the cities in human history, on the potential for innovation in China, and on the ripple effects on Chinese society of the One Child Generation coming of age. Mary Kay’s seven-part series on that subject, called “Young China,” won a 2007 Overseas Press Club Award, one of several awards she has received.

Mary Kay started out in Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok, as a regular contributor to NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and other news media. She covered the Cambodian civil war and the UN peace process, the Burmese army’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and the United States’ wary rapprochement in the early ‘90s with Vietnam. Mary Kay also reported farther afield, covering the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, tensions with Iraq in Kuwait, and other stories.

Mary Kay became NPR’s full-time Southeast Asia correspondent in 1993, and in 1996 she opened NPR’s first Beijing bureau. She took time out for two fellowships at Harvard — a Nieman and a Radcliffe fellowship — enough time to realize China was too interesting a story to leave — before going back to China for The World.

Mary Kay graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in journalism and history, and has an MA in international relations from the University of Sussex in England, completed on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship.

Recent Stories

Arts, Culture & Media

How a shortwave radio network is helping to counter Boko Haram

Boko Haram hasn't given up, but it's on the ropes after a push by the Nigerian military last year, and vigilance by regional peacekeepers. Also countering their influence is a regional shortwave radio network, Dandal Kura Radio International, started just over a year ago, as the world's first network to broadcast in Kanuri — the language spoken by 10 million people in the region, and by most members of Boko Haram. Anyone with a cellphone can call in and share information and ideas. This plus news, current affairs, radio dramas and other programming has started to help counter Boko Haram's power to attract, and is helping a bruised and fractured region move toward a less fraught future.

Politics

If money can't buy happiness, many Chinese now seek spiritiual meaning

A search for meaning is underway in China, after generations grew up with the Communist Party destroying temples and churches, persecuting the religious, and telling the young that religion was the opiate of the masses, and counter-revolutionary to boot. Now, with many Chinese feeling that a moral and ethical center is missing from their increasingly materially comfortable lives, a growing number are seeking meaning in religion and spiritual practice. Host Mary Kay Magistad explores why, in conversation with fellow former China correspondents Ian Johnson, author of "The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao," and Jennifer Lin, author of "Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family."

Arts, Culture & Media

Disrupting the Kleptocrat's Playbook, one investigative report at a time

After decades when democracy was on the rise, the current trend seems to be of aspiring autocrats riding populist waves to power, and then misusing that power to amass wealth for themselves and their families. Forget what President Donald Trump says about journalists being the "Enemy of the People," says Drew Sullivan, head of the Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project — investigative reporting has never been more important.

Arts, Culture & Media

South Africa's imperfect progress, 20 years after the Truth & Reconciliation Commission

After decades of institutionalized racism under apartheid, South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission helped a divided nation watch, weep, reflect & come together — even if imperfectly. What is its legacy now, two decades later? How much of the hope South Africans had for what their future might be together has been borne out? Host Mary Kay Magistad visited South Africa to see how South Africans from different communities feel about what difference the TRC has, and hasn't, made in their lives.

Arts, Culture & Media

How a massacre of a village's Jews by their neighbors in WWII Poland is remembered — and misremembered

Updated

Memory can be slippery, especially when there's incentive to forget, or misremember. In the Polish village of Jedwabne, residents long said Nazis were responsible for the massacre, one hot day in July 1941, of hundreds of Jews in the village. Then evidence emerged that the villagers of Jedwabne had killed their own neighbors.