Sean anchors WNCN News at 6, 7 and 11 p.m. Raised in North Carolina, he returns home after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our newsroom and your home.
Before starting at WNCN in May 2013, Sean worked as a Pentagon correspondent for the Voice of America. He covered a wide-range of topics, including the latest developments on the Defense Department’s shrinking budget, NATO’s pullout from Afghanistan and the U.S. response to the Syrian war. On one trip, Sean logged around 21,500 miles around the world in 11 days with Robert Gates to report on his farewell tour as President Barack Obama’s defense secretary.
As VOA’s Islamabad bureau chief starting in 2009, Sean managed a staff spread across Pakistan and Afghanistan and coordinated news-gathering efforts with VOA’s regional language services.
Less than three weeks on the job, Sean was the only Western journalist on the scene as Taliban militants attacked Pakistan’s army headquarters with grenades and gunfire. What was supposed to be a one-on-one meeting with Pakistan’s military spokesman turned into a scramble for cover as Sean reported on the attack at the base and ensuing hostage situation.
Sean reported out of Pakistan as the country was going through one of the most difficult periods in its history. But while covering the day-to-day violence, Sean also tried to share the human side of the story with his audience. His reporting took him to the homes of Pakistanis who had lost loved ones in terror attacks. He also squatted in humid tents alongside survivors of the country’s worst flooding in nearly a century. It was during that crisis that Sean broke the story of how villagers were camping out in the middle of major highways because they weren’t receiving enough government aid in flood relief camps. The Pakistani government ended up investigating corruption claims against local officials and increasing efforts to improve aid distribution.
In Afghanistan, Sean interviewed many newsmakers, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and top Afghan officials. One of his most memorable interviews was when he shared the frustrations of ordinary Afghans with President Karzai’s anti-corruption chief, who admitted he could only oversee the strategy to fight the country’s endemic corruption and that he didn’t have the authority to investigate or prosecute. Sean also covered Afghanistan’s disputed 2009 presidential election and interviewed Karzai’s challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, in his home.
Aside from attacks, natural disasters and political upheaval, Sean reported on the effects on the ground of President Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and the beginning of NATO’s transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghans. He spoke with Taliban representatives in Kabul, Taliban fighters based in Pakistan and coalition troops on the frontlines in Afghanistan. Sean also narrowly avoided being hit by mortars while covering President Karzai’s Peace Jirga in Kabul, where he had joined top Afghan and international leaders under a single tent. The PBS series “Women, War and Peace” featured Sean’s on-the-scene reporting during that attack as Taliban militants and Afghan security forces exchanged gunfire a few hundred yards away.
Sean broke new ground for VOA by creating, updating and managing the organization’s first bureau blog – a concept VOA later expanded to its bureaus in Moscow, across the Middle East and America. Sean used the blog to engage and interact with his audience and provide more information for stories. He also used it to show how living in a war zone wasn’t all violence. His fondest memories are being invited into the homes of Pakistanis to share their meals and experience their culture — a glimpse into a part of the world that many Westerners will never get.
Before living overseas, Sean reported out of several of VOA’s domestic bureaus. From the United Nations, he covered the immediate aftermath of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. In Houston, he reported for VOA’s Spanish service on NASA’s upcoming projects, including its proposed lunar habitats. From Capitol Hill, he covered many congressional hearings and was VOA’s on-the-scene reporter for President Ford’s lay-in-state ceremony.
Sean has covered a wide-range of breaking news for VOA, including Pope Francis’ selection, the deaths of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Fidel Castro’s resignation as Cuba’s president and the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy announcement. He also was a regular contributor to VOA’s special coverage, providing in-depth multimedia reporting for topics ranging from the 2008 and 2012 U.S. elections to the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Sean’s career at VOA started with his selection as the organization’s Charles Kuralt Fellow in International Broadcasting. Before VOA, Sean contributed reporting to News 14 Carolina, WUNC and WCHL and was part of WTVD’s troubleshooting investigative unit.
Sean graduated with distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he double majored in journalism and Spanish. In his senior year, the prestigious William Randolph Hearst Foundation recognized Sean as one of the country’s top collegiate television reporters. NPR also chose him for its “Next Generation Radio Project.”
During his college years, Sean lived for a summer in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he studied and worked at a children’s shelter outside the city. He also spent his spring breaks volunteering across America — from Philadelphia’s inner-city, to economically depressed areas of eastern Kentucky and to post-Katrina New Orleans.
Sean credits his parents for his passion for news and travel after growing up with their stories of life overseas. His father also is a retired Secret Service agent, which gave Sean a unique perspective on U.S. politics and the opportunity to live up and down the East Coast — from New York City to southern Georgia — before his family ended up in North Carolina.
When he’s not working, Sean enjoys traveling, playing guitar, being active outdoors and cooking.