Colin Burke is a journalist of considerable repute.
Initially working as the Moscow correspondent to the weekly news magazine Newsweek, Burke finds that uncovering the truth in a land which has known secrecy and intrigue for decades is not only difficult, it is can also be murder, literally. Luckily for him, though, is, as he explains, he is basically insensitive and that works to his advantage. He can poke and pry and it won't affect him when he angers someone, unless that person has a gun or bodyguards.
Burke is easily in his mid 40's and has been a reporter for many years, the last few in Moscow. He was married when he was young but it didn't last long and left no bitter memories other than he is not good at marriage or at least his job makes him bad at it. He enjoys the company of women but while stationed in Moscow dating Russian woman often means dating the KGB. In that regard, he is certain that his Russian secretary is informing on him to the KGB but since he expects it and she is a very good secretary, he doesn't object. Besides, except for the names of sources, most of what he knows he puts in the paper which they can read for the cost of an issue.
During his several years in this important position as lead correspondent, most prior to the start of the series, Burke has made a large number of friends and a smaller but more vehement group of enemies. And the CIA tries to make use of him even as it sometimes thinks killing him would be alright as well.
As the series progresses, Burke is offered an even better job as editor of the prestigious Washington Tribune. The task of finding the truth in the nation's capital where secrets might be as deadly as in Moscow but the lust for power and the preservation of position are fought for just as strongly. Still, his years of dealing with the Russians will take him back to that country again or involve him with them in other ways.
Burke is a snoop. More importantly for this series, he is an international snoop who wants the story and is willing to put his butt on the line to get it. Both happen regularly: his butt is endangered and he gets the story.