The perks of being an international journalist

ELIZABETH ANDAL

Nothing quite compares to being immersed in different cultures. With the exotic food, locations and individuals, there is no doubt that everyday will be full of new surprises.

The experience of working overseas is one that many journalists find terrifying, inspirational and life-changing. I was fortunate enough to sit down with two individuals who have had the amazing opportunity to work in countries quite different from their own.

Photographer and photojournalist Corey Wright, currently based in Bangkok, witnessed first-hand the ground breaking events in Thailand following the passing of the world’s longest-running monarch – King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on the 13th of October this year.

Wright described the first three days as a display of heart wrenching grief and sadness across the country.

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Cory’s photos document the grief of the Thai people. Photo: Pixabay

News of the King’s passing immediately swept across the globe, however Wright explains it was incomparable to the experience of being in Thailand at the time.

He  says those who were there felt it much more than the people watching it on the television screen.

“It was everybody who I saw and obviously the people I saw were the people who were attending official events or events in large gatherings in public places.

“So it was likely that there would have been more sympathetic than people who weren’t there.”

As a photographer, Wright documented the period of grief and mourning experienced by the Thai people, emphasising the deep love and appreciation felt for the King across the nation.

“The angle to this story that I’m telling photographically is one of mourning and grief and sadness and how much it touched the lives of people I witnessed.”

“Everybody is encouraging unity and everybody’s coming together to celebrate the life of his majesty and to mourn and to grieve and also to respect the mourning period and each other.”

The events were eye-opening and an experience one incomparable to any situation in Western society.

Even in the absence of ground-breaking events, working as a journalist overseas is never short of its challenges and learning experiences, according to Griffith University student Audrey Courty.

Before coming to Australia to study, she previously had the opportunity to work as a journalist in Shanghai for an English-language newspaper.

She describes the job as one experience, however the journey to work as another. China’s bustling culture quite unlike familiar Western nations kept her on her toes from the journey to the office to the train ride home.

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A foreign journalist must be aware of cultural sensitivities. Photo: Pexels

As a journalist, she had a responsibility to be considerate of the country’s cultural sensitivities especially regarding censorship characteristic of Chinese media, while still maintaining journalistic integrity.

“I think cultural sensitivity is important regardless of where you’re doing it or what you’re doing,” she said.

“With any story really, you always have to be aware of cultural factors…like with the Thai King, you have to be aware of what he represents to the people.”

Courty recalls one particular story which in any Western society would have been nothing more than “an easy soft news story”, which instead turned into a rather complicated situation.

“It was just a story covering a marathon in Shanghai,” she explains.

“But the angle was about whether or not it was safe to be running a marathon in an area with so much pollution.”

She found that most doctors were unwilling to talk to the newspaper about the subject as they didn’t want to seem as though they were criticising the government.

The doctor who eventually agreed to be interviewed addressed the issue not from an angle that the government was not doing enough for the country’s pollution, but that they were already doing a lot and it would be “great to see them do more”.

“You want to balance your journalistic integrity but you also want to be culturally respectful and culturally sensitive.”

“If you might have critiques that Western people have, you have to balance those things between respect but also fulfilling your duty as a journalist to question everything, to critique, to try and get to the bottom of the truth.”

For both Wright and Coutry, the experience of being international journalists is as rewarding as it is challenging. There is no better way of being aware and understanding the world around you than to immerse yourself in it completely.

 

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