There’s a lot of unrest in many nations right now. And if watching the news makes you nervous, imagine what it’s like to be a journalist on the front lines. Meet Lara Setrakian, a 29-year-old foreign correspondent for ABC News and Bloomberg Television who is based in Dubai but travels between the Middle East, London and the U.S. for stories. The result is a brave young woman with a first-hand perspective of what’s going in war-torn regions. Here’s her story.
Journalist – Foreign Correspondent
ABC News, Bloomberg Television
You did a lot of internships in your field. What tips do have for making a strong impression while interning?
Find and create opportunities to learn, whether it’s helping another department on your day off or asking to shadow someone who has your future dream job. Come up with ideas and present them respectfully. You benefit from bringing a fresh set of eyes, and every good idea you share will move you forward toward the career you want.
What was pivotal moment that made you decide to really pursue journalism?
When a CBS News producer spoke at my high school, showing footage and sharing stories from the war in the Balkans, I knew I wanted to be in the business of understanding the world and sharing it with others. In times of change—war is the most dramatic example—people need context and insight into what’s going on. It’s one of few things that brings peace of mind, soothes the nerves and brings down the temperature of humanity. Do it often enough and you really make a difference in how people act and react in times of crisis.
You pretty much live in the Middle East. How to do navigate the cultural differences while maintaining the high investigative and journalistic standards required of your profession?
You learn to be more situationally aware—keeping in mind how people perceive you and interpret your moves. There are situations where being a Western woman is a disadvantage, even a danger. How do you navigate? By taking in as much of the cultural context as you can, knowing what might trigger that danger.
As for standards, we keep them high and let others adjust. In parts of the Middle East, it’s normal to pay for interviews or hand out questions before an interview. We don’t do that. Our counterparts have come to understand that we operate differently.
You’ve interviewed everyone from the president of Somalia to Osama bin Laden’s son. What was the most intense or nerve-racking interview you’ve ever conducted?
The most intense interviews were with the Iranian activists behind the election uprising in 2009. Knowing that they put themselves in danger with every call or email to us was a heavy weight. That they volunteered, they kept reaching out, was a testament to their courage.
Are there any women who have made a strong impact on you professionally? Who?
Without question, Diane Sawyer. She has been a mentor and a model for how our craft can rise to its highest form.
GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of Lara’s job? What job would you like to see here next?