NBC News Middle East Correspondent and Beirut, Lebanon Bureau Chief. Engel, the only television news correspondent to cover the entire war in Iraq for an American television network from Baghdad, joined NBC News in May 2003. He was the recipient of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award in 2006 for “Feature – Hard News” for his report on a Baghdad E.R.
Engel, who reported as a freelance journalist for ABC News during the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq, was NBC News lead Iraq correspondent from 2003 until his appointment to Beirut Bureau Chief in May 2006. He covered the war between Israel and Hezbollah during the summer of 2006 from Beirut and southern Lebanon. Engel continues to cover the ongoing war in Iraq as well as other assignments throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.
A New York City native who as a frustrated child got into frequent fistfights and struggled with dyslexia, Engel latched onto reporting while he was in college at Stanford University. Journalism, he says, "continues to change, and keeps me thinking and learning all the time." After graduating with a bachelor's degree in international relations, Engel went to Cairo with a one-way ticket and a "desire to try something a little different." He enrolled in language school, then dropped out a few weeks later, opting instead to learn Arabic in the broken-down neighborhood where he lived. He worked for a local English-language paper and freelanced for a number of international publications.
As an outlet, Engel has taken to blogging about his experiences on NBC's Web site (www.baghdadblog.msnbc.com). He says the more intimate format is cathartic, as was writing his 2004 book, "A Fist in the Hornet's Nest: On the Ground in Baghdad Before, During & After the War."
Few would have predicted that Engel would become an intrepid war correspondent when he was growing up on Manhattan's East 86th Street. He suffered from dyslexia and struggled in school.
"He was down in the mouth and low on self-confidence," says his mother, Nina Engel. "He lived in the shadow of his older brother, Mr. Perfect," who is now a cardiologist. In fact, she had only "a very faint hope" that he would be able to go to college.
When he was 13, Engel asked his parents to send him to a wilderness survival program in Wyoming. Frustrated by his learning disabilities, he was eager to escape the comforts of Upper East Side life and try a tougher environment.
He says he was "scared to death," especially when given a gun to hunt small game. Nina Engel remembers getting a letter from her son: "I just returned from my survival hike. I clubbed a bird to death and ate it." When the teenager returned, he told his mother: "I learned a lot about myself."
Engel says the experience began a transformation that largely enabled him to overcome his dyslexia and school problems. Despite his learning difficulties, he showed early promise in other ways.
"He was a great writer," says Ross Peet, who was a classmate at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. "But he struggled with anything that had a number on it."
At 16, Engel spent a year as an exchange student in Sicily. After graduating from Stanford in 1996 with a degree in international relations, Engel says, he decided that "the Middle East would be the story of my generation." He announced to his parents that he was moving to Cairo, where the family had once taken a trip.