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New assignments in New Delhi, Beijing, Mexico City bureaus

December 8, 2008 |  4:54 pm

Foreign Editor Bruce Wallace announces three new bureau assignments:  Reporter Mark Magnier transferring to New Delhi; Peter Spiegel replacing Magnier in Beijing; and Tracy Wilkinson being named bureau chief in Mexico City. Wallace's memo to Times staff follows.

After five years of leading our sparkling China coverage, Mark Magnier now moves to New Delhi where he will bring his strong reporting and writing skills to India’s remarkable transformation.

During his time as bureau chief in Beijing, Mark chronicled the Chinese economic boom and the social upheaval that accompanied it. He explained the arcana of Chinese politics and wrote about the plight of those who find themselves in conflict with the state. His travels took him from Taiwan to North Korea and Sri Lanka in wake of the 2004 tsunami, and he maintained his reputation for spirited and humorous Column Ones, such as the attempt by Chinese authorities to teach their citizens to be polite (and stop spitting in public) ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Mark wrote insightfully about the road to those Beijing Games and the impact the Olympics had on the country. And he left us with powerful images from the scene of the Sichuan earthquake this year: of shattered parents awaiting news outside a collapsed school and the grief of a husband as his wife was unearthed from the rubble of their home.

Mark began his career with The Times in Tokyo, where he arrived from the Journal of Commerce to cover business and soon became a master of the Column One. In Delhi he replaces Henry Chu, who moved to London in September.

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Mark’s replacement in Beijing will be Peter Spiegel, who ensures our continued strong coverage out of China. Peter’s experience and knowledge of security issues and economic affairs makes him well-suited to writing about this extraordinary country.

Peter comes to Foreign from the DC bureau, where he has excelled since 2006 in covering the Pentagon and defense issues. He and his colleagues have brought The Times recognition on the biggest, most competitive national security story in Washington over the past five years: the war in Iraq.

Peter has also proven he can spot new developments and write originally about conceptual issues, such as his "The Return of the Neocons" that exposed the split among neoconservatives over the merits of a troop surge in Iraq. A reporting trip to China last year allowed him to range from writing about the Chinese military buildup to the arrival of "Public Enemy" for a rap concert in Beijing.

Born in New York, Peter holds a BA degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and has an MA in European politics and policy from the London School of Economics. He began his journalism career at Roll Call in Washington, before moving to Forbes magazine and the Financial Times, where he worked in London and Washington. While in London, Peter won a 2003 British Press Award for his reporting on the investigation into Enron and Arthur Andersen.

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We also wish to belatedly note the appointment of Tracy Wilkinson as bureau chief in Mexico City. Affectionately dubbed by the desk as the "Queen of the Balkans," and the "Queen of the Seven Hills" at times during 16 years as a correspondent, she has taken on one of the paper’s most challenging foreign assignments.

Tracy is accustomed to covering bloody conflicts. She joined the foreign staff in El Salvador in 1992, covered the Balkan conflicts and the second Palestinian uprising before moving to Rome, where she anchored coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II and the selection of Benedict XVI. She has borne witness to suicide bombings and ethnic cleansing, and was injured herself while working in Baghdad.

Tracy has a keen eye for features and has written too many page-one stories to count. She won a George Polk award in 1998 for her reporting from the Balkans, and was part of the LA Times reporting team that won the Overseas Press Club’s 2006 Malcolm Forbes award for reporting on the global remittance phenomenon.

With Mexico’s drug violence responsible for thousands of deaths, Tracy joins Ken Ellingwood in reporting on a major story now spilling over the border into the Southern California and much of the United States.