Haiti, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo.
University of Wisconsin alum Jacob Kushner has left his footprints far from his hometown of Milwaukee.
He returned to his alma mater Tuesday to speak to students about his freelance journalism career path.
Kushner started in journalism early at his high school’s newspaper, and continued pursuing his degree at UW’s Journalism school.
He first experienced life abroad during his sophomore year at UW, when he studied for a semester in the Dominican Republic. When he returned, he immediately declared his second major in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies.
“Studying abroad changed everything,” Kushner said.
After his graduation in 2010, Kushner went right back to the Dominican Republic to pursue freelancing. The earthquake in Haiti that year would then take him to the other side of the island.
Kushner’s advice for journalists looking to work abroad is to take the first step: be abroad.
While some journalists are hesitant to be abroad without something lined up, Kushner said it’s important to take the leap.
To manage his freelance work, Kushner said he often proposes stories to nonprofit journalism organizations who offer grants for investigative pieces. Along with that, he said he reaches out to any outlets who may be interested in his ideas.
Kushner’s lasting advice to students was to simply be open to studying whatever they may be passionate about and not to stress too much about what degree would look best on a resumé.
“I honestly think the best thing to do is whatever interests you most at that time,” Kushner said. “When you look at the top notch journalism out there, it doesn’t matter what you majored in.”
For foreign journalists, Kushner said it’s important to reach out to the network of other journalists in the same region.
Through his work in Nairobi, he said he formed a core group of journalists who collaborate with each other.
Kushner’s journalism style features more in-depth, investigative pieces. He said while doing breaking stories may achieve the front page for some writers, his interest lies in going deeper into stories and finding alternative angles.
Kushner said he turns away from the idea of the ‘courageous’ journalist who flocks to the scene of the danger or major breaking news.
“When you’re one of 50 journalists standing outside a mall in Nairobi and you’re all sitting there not knowing what’s going on, pretending to be authoritative, I think the courageous thing is to get out of there, go home to your computer and research Al-Shabaab,” Kushner said. “Find a less sexy but honestly more important way to report the story.”