Lauren Frayer covers South Asia for NPR News. In 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
She has covered the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, the aftermath of Sri Lanka's civil war and the power of a 19th century short story to combat racism against Afghan refugees. In 2019, she met the Dalai Lama at his monastery in northern India, and reported on the sticky geopolitics of who decides his successor. On Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birthday, Frayer examined how his legacy has changed.
When a 6-year-old Indian girl died of heat stroke on the U.S.-Mexico border, Frayer traced her path back to the Punjab, met her grieving grandparents – and uncovered a smuggling ring responsible for a 10,000% spike in the number of Indians detained on that border. For a year, Frayer followed an interfaith couple whose wedding plans were upended by 'Love Jihad' – an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory that's now law in several Indian states.
In 2022, Frayer was awarded the Overseas Press Club of America's Lowell Thomas Award for her coverage of India's COVID-19 outbreak, and a Gracie Award for coverage of India's farmer protests.
Frayer reported on caste discrimination for a 2020 episode of NPR's Rough Translation podcast, and is working on a new podcast about love marriage in India.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Frayer was in the first batch of NPR reporters to cross from Poland into the embattled country. She chronicled the flow of Ukrainian refugees out, and military volunteers in. She also reported on the surprisingly long history of Ukrainian women in combat, a spiritual revolt among Orthodox Christians and how Ukrainian rock stars are turning their trauma into art.
Before moving to India, Frayer was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.
In Europe, Frayer profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. In the fall of 2015, Frayer spent two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.
Farther afield, she has introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.
Frayer has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.
Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.
On a break from journalism, Frayer drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.
Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Frayer holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.