I was inspired by failure. I made my first foray into foreign reporting in 2005, when I flew out to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and started working as a freelance reporter. I got a few pieces on BBC News Online and the Guardian, but the market was swamped with foreign writers much better than I was.
I went back to London disheartened. At the time I was an aspiring member of the Frontline Club, and often went to watch reporters speak there. During a rather dull September back then, I went to watch Lindsey Hilsum, now international editor at Channel 4 News, talk about her career. At the end of her talk, I asked her what she’d do now if she was an aspiring foreign reporter.
“Get out there and get on with it,” she said.
So I did.
I already KNEW journalism – I’d been working as a business reporter in London for the last ten years. So I packed up some pretty crap kit, and bought a plane ticket to Mexico. On landing, I started a blog called, at the time, www.newcorrespondent.com, with some help from my friend Mike Butcher, now editor of TechCrunch Europe - because what I news about blogging and building a website you could fit on a laptop mousepad. It was an experiment in digital journalism – I wanted to file using multimedia tools – but it was also about work process. If I didn’t have a job, a gig, I needed a work process and I had to create it myself. A website would require constant content and I would have to produce it and meet self-assigned deadlines.
Well, newcorrespondent turned into www.mexicoreporter.com, and a three month trip turned into three years, going on four.
After six months of working on the site in Mexico, and some pretty furious networking, I started helping the Los Angeles Times Mexico Bureau add video elements to their reporting, and eventually got taken on as a fulltime blogger and video journalist. Then the Financial Times back in London offered me a job as a video journalist. I took it and did it for a year, but missed being in Mexico, so I gave up that job to come back to Mexico a month ago and pick up the site where I left off.
Creating my own, online editorial brand was the best thing I ever did. The site has brought in uncountable commissions, got lots of great reviews and write-ups and of course, scored me a couple of full-time jobs. Yes, it is an unpaid labour of love, but it’s a space to innovate and experiment. The important thing is to exercise the same journalistic and editorial standards that you would if you were working for an established newspaper – the work will speak for itself.
My ambition one day is for mexicoreporter.com to become a sponsored foreign bureau or a content channel attached to a media provider but retaining operational independence. Until then, the site will carry on producing video analysis you’ll rarely see in the mainstream media whilst making ends meet producing video packages for existing newspapers and broadcasters.
Do you think you could do what Debroah did and pitch up in another country and report news? Is this the most effective way to become a foreign correspondent? Tweet us, email or drop a comment below.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look