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Reporters and journalists in the United Nations

by EDWARD PINTO Section Editor

Many teens and young adults have an aspiring career they want to fulfill and hope their dreams come true, but rarely do people actually get accepted into the jobs they want without hard work and dedication. Journalists and reporters specifically need to be able to communicate well and write incredibly well to get the position they want.

Most people know the United Nations for their famous fundraising projects, diplomats, and worldwide peace. The people that work behind the scenes and report on everything about it are the journalists that sit a few floors above the General Assembly Hall. Not only do they have an advantage being inside the building where all the magic happens, but they also travel to places like Syria and Ecuador if they do not already have a headquarters building there.

Usually, to achieve a job like this, one needs to attend a university and preferably gain a Master’s degree. During college, however, many aspiring journalists apply for an internship with the UN to get a feel for the everyday life and basics of the job. 

With headquarters basically all around the world, aspiring journalists have many opportunities to enroll in a career they may be interested in. Some jobs have certain requirements like having a job in a specific field or prior experience.

“I graduated with a Political Science degree and started working at the United Nations Radio. I fell in love with the work and I am still here working in the UN Radio. So you could say I am a journalist quite by accident,” said Sandra Guy, a producer with the UN Radio-English Unit.

The Portuguese branch in particular is not only filled with Brazilians and Portuguese citizens, but also people from Mozambique, Guinea, and Cape Verde where Portuguese is the official language. Not only is this convenient for people trying to get a job in a different country, but it also gives a different perspective from other nations around the world. Since many workers come from these nations, they go on special reports and issues that have affected a certain city or area and bring back long reports.

“Frequently in January-February, during the summertime in Brazil, my hometown, São Paulo, suffers from heavy rain that can flood the city in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes. When I was working there as a reporter for the radio station, I had to report about the day after the storm in 2006. I went to this very poor neighborhood, with streets filled with water and got the chance to enter into some houses, and talk with the families affected. It really touched me to see with my own eyes that they had lost almost everything: beds, mattresses, food, furniture, etc. There was a big family living in a very small one bedroom house and it was filled [with] dirty water. Kids were crying, they were hopeless. I couldn’t do anything to change that situation, but at least I could give them a voice, a space to complain and to ask authorities for a solution,” said Leda Letra, another worker for the Portuguese branch at the United Nations.

The main purpose of the United Nations is to gain world peace, end world hunger, and complete human rights work. Very few facilities and popular companies can accomplish this because it takes a lot of patience and difficult work. What these journalists do is not that different besides the fact that they are reporting to the given country or language for which they work.

When reporting issues in the world, things tend to get violent or dangerous, and many journalists have gone to cities that have been destroyed by war or tragic accidents that can occur.

“In July 2007, I had to cover a plane crash in Sao Paulo, one of the worst crashes in the world. I got to the scene a few hours after the crash and the smoke was still very strong. It was difficult to breathe, so I had to cover my face all the time, and there was nowhere else to go. I had to inhale all that smoke because I didn’t have access to water or food, and the firemen were still concerned with the risk of explosions (the plane crashed next to a gas station). From that day, I worked for 15 days non-stop, around 10 to 12 hours a day. Not that my life was at risk or that I was in danger, far from that, but it was a very thorough coverage, especially because almost every hour I had to check with the firemen how many more bodies they had found. It was very stressful and sad to work on that scenario,” said Letra.

Every journalist in any newspaper or radio station has worked at least a full week non-stop with no breaks due to some breaking news that happened or an awful disaster that took place.

Usually, when a journalist takes the job, they stay for many years because they love what they do.

“I have been a journalist for over 30 years and I am approaching my retirement very soon,” said Guy.

The United Nations offers many opportunities for young journalists just like many other newspaper companies across the nation. Meetings, conferences, and regular interviews are planned on a regular day of work.

“It’s very interesting, because we are based in New York, but we are writing stories about facts that are happening all over the world. So I can start my day writing on the civil war in Syria, then write another story about the work that the UN is doing to help migrants in Ethiopia and finish the day writing about the new Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef, Katy Perry,” said Letra.

As a journalist, you have to be prepared for anything to come your way, even if you do not particularly enjoy the topic.

Do you think you would ever become a journalist? If so, where would you want to work?

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