Mary Kay Magistad

Mary Kay Magistad

Deputy Director of Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations

Mary Kay Magistad is deputy director of Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, and an award-winning journalist who lived and reported in East Asia for more than two decades, including in China for NPR (1995-99) and for PRX’s The World (2003-13). She has reported in every province in China, most countries in Asia and some in Africa about how China’s rise has affected individual lives and had global impact, drawing for context from her earlier experience as a correspondent in Southeast Asia (1988-95). 

Climate change has been one of Mary Kay’s areas of focus, both when based in East Asia, and now at Asia Society, where she created and hosted the COAL + ICE podcast, offering global conversations on how climate change is being experienced around the world, with what impact, and with what efforts to reduce future harms and risks. Mary Kay also reported in Greenland, for a story that ran on CBS Interactive just before COP27 in November 2022, on how climate change is accelerating the melting of polar ice, which in turn speeds up climate change, in a vicious feedback loop.

For her podcast with the Global Reporting Centre, On China’s New Silk Road (2020), Mary Kay reported on five continents, partnering with local journalists, on how China’s global ambition in general, and its Belt & Road Initiative in particular, are seen and felt around the world.  The podcast was broadcast in condensed form on PRX’s “The World”, and in Australia on ABC (Australia), and was recognized by Scripps Howard and the One World Media Awards (UK) as one of the top three finalists in the audio awards category.  Mary Kay’s earlier podcast with PRX’s The World,” Whose Century Is It?, a Webby Award honoree, took a deep dive into ideas, trends and twists shaping power dynamics around the world in this century.  

Mary Kay is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been a Nieman Fellow and Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. She has an MA from the University of Sussex in international relations, with a concentration in development studies, and an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in journalism and history.  She chairs the board of Global Voices, an international, multilingual community of writers, translators, and human rights activists that leverages the power of the internet to tell stories that build understanding across borders. She has taught international reporting and audio journalism at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she headed the audio journalism department. She lives in San Francisco.


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