WMU alumnus created, runs Iraq-based news WMU alumnus Ben Lando is of a generation whose college years are marked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on American soil and the U.S. invasion of Iraq less than two years later. Awed by these world events like most people at the time, they also sometimes figured into Lando’s studies as a political science major at WMU and into some of his reporting as a student journalist for the University’s independent student radio station, WIDR. But the Kalamazoo native had no idea then how much more personally the U.S. involvement in Iraq would shape his life and journalistic career in the years that followed his 2005 graduation. Today, Lando, 32, lives in Baghdad and runs the Iraq Oil Report, a news and information organization he created in 2009. What two years earlier had started as a blog when he worked for another news agency now has a staff of journalists.
On a mission “Our mission is to cover Iraq by following the oil. So that goes from the economy to the political issues to security issues to society issues—how that affects and is affected by oil,” he says.
“The sum of my experiences in life, including at WMU, is the reason I am where I am right now,” says Ben Lando, alumnus who founded and runs a news service in Iraq.
Looking back to his days at WMU, Lando says, “I didn’t expect to go from Kalamazoo to 10 years later living in Baghdad.” Talent, drive and pluck were probably the drivers, guesses Andrew Robins, news director for WMUK and Lando’s former boss. Robins came to know all of those qualities when Lando was a stringer for WMUK, the University’s public radio station. He covered city and county government. “He was adventurous. That was clear even then,” Robins says. “He would go right to the edge. That could be exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. One half of my brain was admiring of his courage, the other half was saying, ‘I need to rein this guy in before he falls over.’”
Lando made some of the typical mistakes of a cub reporter but never fell.