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.