Fox News Middle East correspondent Trey Yingst, who has spent the past few days reporting on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan from that country and nearby Qatar, told TheWrap that “empathy is critical” when covering stories in conflict zones — and stressed the importance of maintaining your mental health while working in high-stress locales.
“As journalists we are often there on the worst day of someone’s life. Afghanistan was no exception,” said Yingst, who flew to Doha, Qatar, on Sunday along with other Afghan evacuees after reporting live from Kabul to document the unrest in the Afghan capital. “We always need to remember that having empathy is critical to being a solid reporter. Every single person on that plane has dreams, desires and aspirations. They feel fear, happiness and anxiety just like anyone else.”
Yingst, an outspoken advocate for mental health issues, noted how journalists need to prioritize their mental health while covering difficult subjects. He mentioned seeing heart-wrenching scenes in the past week, citing one family he saw on a runway at the Kabul airport. The father looked exhausted, he said, and was trying to calm the youngest child while one daughter stared into Yingst’s camera and another son clutched a military-issued ready-to-eat meal “like a teddy bear.”
“These children have witnessed such terror and it can be difficult for them to process,” he said via email, though he noted it’s been “heartwarming” to see how various organizations and agencies have made efforts to keep children safe.
“Drawing on my own experiences with taking care of my mental health has helped me to become a better journalist,” said Yingst, a Pennsylvania native who joined Fox News in 2018 after a stint at OAN. “In [Qatar] we interviewed a group of five Afghan university students. I framed my questions to them in a way that I felt helped to understand their thinking about the situation. I didn’t just ask about the logistics of their journey, but also about their mental health and where their minds were focused right now.”
Yingst, who is ordinarily based in Jerusalem, said he spent hours studying the Afghan conflict before heading into the country and had a clear plan for how he wanted to tell the story of the Afghan people. “It’s easy to talk about the Taliban and the brutality of the group. That’s part of the story and certainly catches the attention of those watching,” he said. “Although the Taliban doesn’t represent the people of Afghanistan and we have a responsibility as journalists to make sure viewers on the other side of the world understand that.”
Yingst also praised his bosses for helping to evacuate three Afghans who helped with the network’s coverage, as well as their families. “I’m not exaggerating when I say the leadership at Fox saved the lives of our former employees,” said Yingst, singling out the Murdochs, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and vice president of news coverage Greg Headen. “Everyone involved made certain our former colleagues made it out alive. Journalists are routinely targeted by the Taliban and some of the people rescued had received direct threats.”
The network said on Sunday that the three Afghan nationals, along with their families, had been flown to Doha, Qatar, with a total of 24 people successfully evacuated from the country after it fell to the Taliban. The trio served as “producers, drivers, translators and security guards” for Fox News correspondents during the 20-year presence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
“We are extremely proud to have assisted in this critical mission bringing them to safety in Doha where the Qataris have been aiding in several evacuations, and are grateful to Fox Corp for all of their assistance,” read Fox News’ statement on Sunday.