W.Va. editor savors friendship with visitor from afar

A column by Robert J. Byers, executive editor of the Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The workday was done, and I gave Malik a ride to his hotel. Before he disappeared through the doors of the Embassy Suites, he smiled and asked me to wait. He had something for me.

He returned from his room and presented me with a sleeveless jacket and wool cap — the kind commonly worn by men in Pakistan, his homeland, where he would soon be returning after three weeks in Charleston and the Gazette newsroom.

Yaqoob Malik is a reporter — an investigative reporter, as he will proudly tell you — at an English-language paper called Dawn in the Attock area of Pakistan.

Earlier this year, he and several hundred other Pakistani reporters applied to the International Center for Journalists, which was offering a free trip to the U.S. and a chance to work with and observe an American newspaper.

Only 19 of the applicants made the cut. It was literally the opportunity of a lifetime for Malik (as he prefers to be called).

But while the other journalists drew assignments at big newspapers in New York, Miami and so on, he was being sent to Charleston, a place none of them had heard of, and the smallest town on the list.

This drew some good-natured ribbing from a few of the others and left Malik a bit crestfallen.

But, as Malik describes it, when he landed among the hilltops at Yeager Airport, each sporting its showy autumnal best, he knew that he would have the last laugh…

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