Wednesday, May 04, 2016

A Q and A with Multimedia International Journalist Gabe Joselow by Amanda Bradrick

As part of a series of q and as with courageous, forward-looking and enterprising international journalists, here is a writeup and interview by UNR student Amanda Bradrick from my cross-cultural reporting class at UNR, with former colleague Gabe Joselow, who always worked to hold criminal justice systems to account, survived many scary moments, and tells multimedia stories which are always enlightening.

Photo provided by Gabe Joselow. Bio and interview by Amanda Bradrick.

Gabe Joselow is currently a multimedia producer based out of London for NBC News. Before this, Gabe worked in various places such as Washington D.C., Thailand, and multiple countries in East Africa. With a passion for criminal justice, Gabe has found himself telling many rewarding stories. His career path has been one full of adventure and working as a voice for others to impact the world.

How and when did you begin your career?

I guess my career began when I started writing for the school newspaper at the University of Arizona. I was covering arts and culture and that kind of thing. But for me, it was a passion for writing that got me into journalism and a love of telling a really good story. After college, I lived in Thailand and traveled around Southeast Asia and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to focus on international reporting, again, driven by the search for a good story and a curiosity about how people live around the world.

After that, I worked in a newsroom at Voice of America in D.C. writing, reporting, learning the basics of radio and television, working undesirable overnight shifts and taking on as many extra assignments as I could until, eventually, I realized my dream by becoming the East Africa correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya. Four years later, I moved on to another job as a producer with NBC News in London.

What is the most significant thing you have worked on in your career, both personal and not?

I’m obsessed with criminal justice and the reporting I’ve done on this issue – in the US and in Kenya – has been the most rewarding and significant work I’ve done.

The story that stands out to me is an investigative piece I did in Kenya, trying to find out about the police killing of a young man who was a suspected thief. The police did not deny that they killed him – they kill a lot of suspected criminals, especially in the slums – but the evidence I uncovered suggested he was unarmed, that he had been threatened by the police before and was intentionally targeted. It was a clear abuse of power by the police, part of a pattern of extrajudicial killings of young men in Nairobi. Hopefully, my story brought some much needed attention to this overlooked issue.

To me, the best journalism gives voices to those who don’t have one, raises important questions – even if it doesn’t always answer them – and, in the end, tells a compelling story. So this one checked all those boxes.

In which country did you experience the most significant shift in your world view?

Central African Republic. I was reporting on violence between Muslim and Christian militia in the northwest of the country. We had to drive for hours on muddy tracks in a beat-up Toyota pick-up truck. We stopped in a tiny little village to change our tire – I believe it was our third flat tire that day. The people in the village were incredibly poor. They could only eat what they could grow from their fields. They had no medical care. And they were scared because of the violence raging around them.

You could not imagine a more isolated community in the world. But when we started talking, I realized the people there were incredibly well-informed and interested in the world around them. As I was asking one of the village chiefs about his life, he stopped to ask me what I thought Obama was going to do about the war in Syria – he had been listening to the reports on the radio at night.

What was kind of incredible about that experience was that through the radio, these villagers – who had plenty of their own problems – were learning about countries and conflicts so far away from them, and actually cared about what happened to people in another part of the world. At the same (time), this was really disheartening, because, at that time, it was almost impossible to get an international audience to care about what was happening to people in the Central African Republic.

It was one of those moments where I realized there’s a terrible injustice when the international community – and the media as a part of it – gets to decide that some people’s lives matter more than others.

In which country did you experience the most hardships, either personal or through people that you worked with?

Somalia is always a difficult country. One of the reporters I hired in Mogadishu was killed in a suicide bombing near the presidential palace. I once witnessed a suicide attack while attending a meeting at a hotel with the newly elected president. You are at risk every moment you are in Mogadishu. I traveled with heavily armed security guards in the city and took serious precautions. But every cafe I’ve ever visited has been bombed at some point.

What was the most interesting story you worked on?

I worked on a story about a prison education program in Kenya which was really interesting. The prisoners spent most of their days in classes taught by other prisoners and some of the prison officers. They learned everything from elementary level math and reading up to more advanced stuff.

One of the star students was a guy studying to become an accountant. He was serving a life sentence for an armed robbery he says he didn’t do, and the guards and other prisoners really liked him. They helped pay for his education and would drive him to the university to take his exams.

One day, several months after I interviewed him, he escaped while taking an exam. The guards and the warden were shocked and kind of disappointed because they had invested so much in him. In fact, they were in the process of trying to get a presidential pardon for him and he had a really good chance to be released!

The story gave me a unique chance to use the interview we conducted with him months earlier to try to piece together what was going through his mind when he decided to escape and to use his case to highlight broader, systemic problems in Kenya’s criminal justice system. Stories like that don’t come along too often.

What is something comical that has happened to you while working on a story?

I was interviewing patients at a mental hospital in Mogadishu. One of them was a guy who claimed he was from Washington, DC. His English was pretty good, so it could be true.

I asked him why he was in the mental hospital. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I married a Somali woman…”

Did you have to work your way up to where you are now?

Sure, I have spent a lot of time “paying my dues” working newsroom shifts, doing uninteresting work to get my career going. Even during the best of times, there is always a lot of grunt work, logistics, paperwork, administrative bullshit and other hassles that stand in the way of the work that I’m actually passionate about. And all along the way, I’ve always learned a lot. None of it feels like time wasted.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Globetrotting Journalist Tatiana Mossot with Andrea Figueroa

As part of the international and cross cultural reporting class I taught this semester at UNR, student Andrea Figueroa interviewed Tatiana Mossot, an award winning video journalist who has braved tense situations across Africa and who also regularly anchors with great professionalism behind newsdesks.

Tatiana has worked extensively at France 24, and now works at the Voice of America. In this candid interview she reveals sexism has been worse for her when working in the field than racism.

My former colleague during tumultuous years in Ivory Coast also emphasizes it's important for journalists to get paid well for what they do, because their job is important. Below is a screengrab of Tatiana for the VOA show "Washington Forum", and what follows is Andrea's article.

Q and A session with Tatiana Mossot by Andrea Figueroa

Tatiana Mossot is a reporter and journalist, who typically works in African countries. Her reporting focuses on crisis, violence, and injustice--so naturally when Nico said I could interview her for a question-and-answer piece, I took him up on it. She has been working at Voice of America, and used to be a correspondent for France 24. I have always been curious about racism, sexism, and injustice. I certainly came to the right person! With her background in reporting about refugees, conflict zones, and poverty all over the world, she provided me a lot of insight about what it’s like to report in different countries. I was surprised about how racism differs between countries--but I will let her tell you all about that in her own words, down below.

“So to start off, what human rights issues do you usually flock to?”

Tatiana Mossot: “It really depends on the country, it really depends on what is the most important for me at this time of the story when I’m covering something. For example, in Central Africa, the most important for me was to understand how women are leaving the crisis. How women who have children and who are coming from the middle class, how they are dealing with the crisis, the conflict, and this violence. And it’s not only “how I lost my children, I lost my husband,” it’s more about the things--you and I--we are do everyday. Like going to shopping, preparing dinner for family. Stuff like that. So when your main environment is totally changed by a war, a conflict, how [do] you deal everyday? And this is the final story I’m always trying to tell anywhere I’m going, because this is what people are going to understand.”

“Reporting in America--so I am told--is very different from reporting in other countries. What is your experience with that?”

Tatiana Mossot: “I never report here (in D.C) like I do in Africa usually, so I cannot say there is a lot of difference. But in my case, I’ve never worked in like, let’s say, ‘Western countries’. Never as a reporter. So probably it’s different to shoot in New York city, or in Paris. But for me, the main difference, coming here or going to Paris, compared to Africa, was how people are welcoming a camera just in front of them. How people are reacting, and how people are considering media. This is something which is like totally different if you’re here in the US or if you are in Africa. Because usually here it will be easy to have a vox-pop with a woman. If you’re doing a story, you go in the street, and the first woman you meet, you ask her “oh, what do you think about Super Tuesday,” “what do you think about Trump?” And she will feel free, and she will be able to answer to you! Without any matters. The only thing she [will] ask you is “oh, what media are you for?” But for example, in Africa, and mostly in Senegal (as was my experience)--you never have a woman! And if you want to have a woman for vox-pop for anything, even stories only telling just about women, you will have to fight. Because they are running away if they see a camera, even if the camerawoman is a woman!”

“I’ve faced an amount of racism for being Hispanic in the professional world. As a black reporter, what are your personal experiences with it, and what can I tell other minority journalists?”

Tatiana Mossot: “I will mostly say that there is discrimination if you are a woman or if you are a man; if you are black or if you are white...For example, for me in Paris, I was a black woman, working in a big media, and I was most fighting because I was a woman, than because I was black. You still fight because you are black, you fight because you are coming from a minority, but it depends where you are. Here, in the U.S. I am not fighting because I am coming from a minority. So it always depends where you are...I don’t want to believe that it will be racism. Because in this case, let’s say, in Iran, you are a woman. It will be because in an Arabic countries, you are black--okay! It’s difficult to be black in an Arabic countries. Everybody knows that. But you always find a way to work. If you go to Africa, they will say “oh you are a woman; we don’t talk to women.” Because in some countries, they only respect men. If you are going, for example, in Senegal--where they are conservative, “Okay, oh. You are a woman? Oh okay. Doing this job? You are doing a man’s job? Okay, come on!” You are going to Abidjan--which is not so far--they like women, and they will encourage women to do that...So it depends on the context...I will more say there is discrimination on gender mostly.”

“Speaking of gender, how is being a woman different, and how are you treated as a journalist?”

Tatiana Mossot: “I think that things are improving in certain ways. But it depends when, again, and what discipline in journalism you choose to do. As a reporter, a TV reporter, we have to improve a LOT about women because we are still, they’re still looking at us like we are trying to do a man’s job.”

“And finally, what’s your biggest criticism of the media industry, and news?”

Tatiana Mossot: “We don’t think enough that our jobs deserve to be paid. [laughs] They--most of the big bosses--think we are all volunteer. We are like, free and able to live without money. But this is not true, and the job we are doing--even if we really like it and we embrace a career, and we put all the effort we have--we need to be paid. It’s a job.”

Tatiana Mossot won a UN award in 2014 for her courageous reporting in the very much under-reported Central African Republic.


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