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.”