Janne Louise Andersen (M.A. ’12)
Janne Louise Andersen Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Journalism on the Web, Photojournalism and Feature Writing were the courses I enjoyed the most while studying and, similarly, the courses I have benefitted most from working after graduating. Professors Kelly Fincham, Daniel Van Benthuysen and Kristal Brent Zook have also been a great inspiration and a tremendous support after graduation. Both of them facilitated employment on campus – at the Long Island Report and for the public relations office photographing events. Being able to practice teaching in the classroom made the transition to journalism in the real world much easier. I think this kind of individual engagement is a characteristic that many of the professors at Hofstra hold, and it’s one of the great benefits of the program.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I have been freelancing for various online and print media since I graduated in May 2012.
One story for Kollaps, a Danish online magazine, brought me to London to research what happened one year after the England Riots in the summer of 2011. Another, for the organization Freemuse, brought me to Beirut, Lebanon, to interview Syrian rappers and other musicians about how they deal with censorship, political threats and propaganda, as part of the war within Syria. While in South Sudan and East Africa working for Norwegian People’s Aid, I also pursued stories there and pitched the ideas to relevant editors. Freelancing requires a lot of research and outreach to editors, which doesn’t always immediately pay off. But the perk is the freedom to choose the stories you really want to pursue and the possibility of experiencing and narrating the world – and actually being paid for it.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
During my study, I focused on covering political and cultural affairs in the Arab and Muslim communities in New York, and I reached out with story ideas to media with a particular interest in that segment. I have written for Rolling Stone Middle East; The National; Islamic Horizons, a magazine for American Muslims in North America; and various Danish online and print media. Moreover, I started writing about Arab artists who push social and political change through their arts, especially hip hop. That also became the topic of my capstone project where I created a website featuring my work on the topic – something that’s been very useful in my outreach to editors as well. While traveling in East Africa, I discovered some interesting artists that I plan to profile when I return.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
While studying, invest in your relationships with your professors; get engaged in the online or print school media; identify a “beat” of interest and specialize in it; then start to pitch relevant editors story ideas and don’t give up when you don’t hear back. And demand a proper fee! Most editors will try and make you work for free or for as little as possible, but I find that they respect you more when you demand a payment that reflects the actual value of your work.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Ambitious (on behalf of the students and the institution).
What was a typical workday like for you at a refugee camp in South Sudan?
So, plans changed a little since I got the job… I was at an informal job interview at International Media Support (IMS) in Copenhagen last summer. A few months later they sent me a TOR (Terms of Reference) for a consultant position with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) to train a group of refugees from the Nuba Mountains in Yida Camp how to run a website with video, photos and stories about the conditions in the camp and in the Nuba Mountains. I developed the outline of a 10-day training program (heavily inspired by my Journalism on the Web class) and showed them examples of online journalism projects I had been part of to prove my skills (Long Island Report, my website, my capstone project and a Danish news site for foreign correspondents I am part of). I got the assignment. But meanwhile the UN decided to move Yida Camp further down south, so NPA has postponed that specific training to the end of January. Meanwhile, I was hired to conduct a training session for women’s rights activists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. This was a four-day training exercise for 15 activists from eight different local NGOs on how to strengthen their advocacy through social media. We built a Wordpress blog, set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page, integrated them into the blog and learned how to navigate the different platforms and disseminate strategic content to a targeted audience.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Several of the activists actually showed up for the training without an email address. So, we had to start from scratch. Simultaneously the Internet connection was incredibly slow and we kept being thrown offline losing data. In spite of this, everyone was patient and determined to improve their skills, staying two hours after the training officially ended. Experiencing that kind of enthusiasm is an amazing motivation.
How has your job influenced your point of view?
Traveling always influences me. This was my first time traveling in Africa. I am slowly widening my focus on arts and politics in the Arab World to Africa, which is a very interesting experience.