Jan 20: Lecture – Reflections of a Mainland Publisher
17 January 2011
Jan 26: Lecture – Nancy Tong on The Maryknoll Sisters
21 January 2011

MJ Alumnus – Three Months Reporting from Kabul

Bethany Matta, a Master of Journalism student at the JMSC who graduated in 2010, has spent the past three months freelancing in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

Here is her update of how she’s been getting along:

Bethany Matta working in Afghanistan

“I am going on my third month living in Kabul working here as a freelance journalist.

The first month was an extremely difficult time. I did not and, honestly, could not work. Everything was too new to me; I could not imagine taking on stories when I felt so disoriented … I was going through major culture shock.

The second month, I slowly started to take on some work. I am stringing for Voice Of America (VOA), so I worked on several feature stories for their radio service.

Reporting here is very difficult and time consuming but, equally, just as interesting. In order to find the truth, or make some sense about what is going on, it seems you have to talk to more people than you would if you were reporting in other regions. Because I don’t yet speak the local language, I must go back and have someone help me re-translate all my interviews. Many times, translators will give the synopsis of what people say; when I go back to the interview and translate word for word, the most valuable information is in the details.

Bethany Matta recording Pashto poetry

I can’t lie and say it is easy freelancing here. The stories are great and there is available work but the process is slow…and extremely expensive; the cost of living is, believe it or not, more expensive than Hong Kong. Hiring translators, fixers, drivers, or just a safe taxi to get around the city is costly.

Despite the challenges, I would not have chosen another country to start out in. Right now is such a great time for journalists with all the storytelling techniques we can use. There is so much happening here, and Afghanistan is under-reported.

And despite the difficult lifestyle – security issues and lack of freedom are the biggest hindrances – Afghanistan presents itself as the best opportunity to grow as a journalist … But, this is always subject to change.”

Listen to one of Bethany’s pieces here.