So You Want to Change the World

The Podcast

Episode 4: Snapchat, Untold Stories & the Future of Journalism

“Why do I have the right to tell this story?” Marianna Brady entered journalism because storytelling is how empathy spreads. Now, she’s stepping to the forefront of the field to leverage the power of new technology like Snapchat to the BBC. As a feminist and activist, she holds strong views. Yet, she takes on the role of journalist to amplify the voices and experiences of others, even those she disagrees with. Here she shares the struggle to balance her determination to create change with self-care and happiness.

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Interview Transcript

Robin: 00:29 We first came to know Marianna Brady in 2009 when she joined our second Global Gap Year class here Thinking Beyond Borders. In the time since she left us she has completed a B.A. in English and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Tulane University, and recently graduated from the Journalism School with a Master's degree from Northwestern University. Marianna, welcome to the podcast.

Marianna: 00:54 Thanks for having me. This is so fun.

Robin: 00:55 Yeah. We're glad to have you join us. So why journalism? Why is this the tool that you've chosen to pick up in your pursuit of social impact and social justice?

Marianna: 01:07 Aside from the fact that it's really well paid? Journalism has just been something that has almost found to me, and I know that sounds a bit cliche. But starting as early honestly as 2009 as TBB, I was drawn to people's stories and always wanted to pick up a camera and have them tell me about their story. And it's just been such an incredible path kind of discovering that it's actually something that I'm interested in. I didn't go to Tulane to study it at all. In fact I only chose an English major because I needed something practical to pair with Gender Studies. So it wasn't really even anything that crossed my mind as a profession until late at my time at Tulane when I started interning at a news station down there. I think that what I've realized as I've gone through my Master's degree and everything is it's just the it's such a fun career. You just I mean your entire job is finding stories, getting to immerse yourself in topics that you never even knew about you know a week before. Listen to people talk about their lives convey those messages to others. And I just I really I love doing that.

Robin: 02:27 It's funny. I remember I remember three of your media projects really distinctly I remember your project from Ecuador "Breaking the Straw Ceiling" where in rural Ecuador you were you were featuring young students and asking them what their aspirations were. I remember your piece "Women in India" where you were asking these hard questions about what does it mean for women to pursue education and careers in India, particularly coming from rural India. And I even remember your piece from South Africa where you were looking at women's relationship to HIV and AIDS. And they were always very powerful pieces. I'm not surprised to see that this is a passion that you're really pursuing.

Marianna: 03:04 Well thank you. I mean I look back on some of those experiences, and I think those are probably the coolest short documentaries if you can call them that I've ever done, just because of the locations we were in and the people I got to interview. But also because on TBB we were so immersed in those topics -- in the journalism that I do nowadays, I mean I'm lucky if I get even a week to really immerse myself in a topic before I'm expected to you know produce something on it. So those are those are really fun projects to work on. I think if you watch them you know I didn't know a thing about storytelling or actually video editing so when I watched them back I am embarrassed by them a little bit. But still I mean they're pretty fun.

Robin: 03:51 Yeah they're great pieces, and we'll include links to those on the blog page for this podcast. So as you look at the field, the field of journalism has changed a lot in the last 10 years, I'm curious do you feel hopeful about the field? Do you feel hopeful about your opportunities to do the kind of work you want to do within it?

Marianna: 04:11 I think this year even has been an incredible year for kind of putting journalism on the map as a concept as a field as an important thing that we are talking about. I think the election kind of hit home to a lot of people that you know choosing your news wisely really thinking about what it means to read the news every day and have this information provided to you. It has kind of become something that everyone is talking about nowadays. So a lot of people say "Oh God it's a terrible time to go into journalism, especially you know with a White House that doesn't respect the free press." And I kind of see it as the opposite. I think it's a great time to enter the field for a couple of reasons. First of all we need good journalists. We need people going into journalism and pursuing the path even though it isn't the most well paid or always most respected field. But also we need new minds in journalism. It's really hard I think because with changing technology the entire industry has been completely disrupted and we've lost some of the best journalists just because they couldn't keep up with the changing times.  And I mean I'm hopeful. On a personal level I think Northwestern has provided me such a great education along with my time at Tulane and Thinking Beyond Borders to really enter this sphere with a critical eye and we need that now more than ever.

Robin: 05:36 Are there journalists that you see doing work in the field today that really are inspirational to you or have really been guideposts for you and how you approach your work?

Marianna: 05:46 People that I am really looking up to right now are the folks that are kind of going against the grain. For example you know the folks over at Vox, Ezra Klein and others who are really not just telling you what's happening but trying to explain the news and explain what's going on and take it a step further. So yeah he's one of my current idols I would say.

Robin: 06:10 I take that to mean contextualizing. That they're really taking the day to day events and trying to put it in the big picture and help people see the big picture. Is that what you mean by that?

Marianna: 06:19 Yeah and Vox even I mean their mission statement is is just to explain the news, explain the media. To take an example from a while back, you know, what does it mean that Trump fired James Comey? What does that really mean, and how should we be thinking about it? And I don't think every news organization has the luxury to take the time and actually write these pieces and research these pieces explaining what's actually going on so. Exactly. Contextualizing it.

Robin: 06:43 Why is storytelling so important to social justice?

Marianna: 06:47 I think storytelling is how you bring people into any type of new topic and how you get people passionate but also feeling empathy or feeling -- yeah just I mean, generally knowing about but also feeling feelings. So storytelling for me has it's just sort of it's a tool in a sense to get people to care about bigger issues. We think about this a lot. You know what's the human angle? Well how are you going to take this really complicated topic, how are you going to take health care and explain what it really means to a broader audience? Usually you find an example of people who've been impacted by various health care laws, whatever you're talking about at the time. So for social justice specifically I think there's just a lot of stories that haven't been told. I think there's a lot of voices that are not sought out. I think that if you just look at who kind of dominates the industry there is a certain type of person who is behind the scenes making these editorial decisions about what stories we're going to cover, how we're going to analyze them, and who our audiences are. And because of that some people are left out. So, I really think it's it's a crucial tool to use to get people to be more aware of issues they may not have thought about before.

Robin: 08:10 So what stories are out there that you really want to tell right now?

Marianna: 08:14 Oh that's such a good question. I think if I knew the answer I'd be rich and famous. I'm just kidding. I'm just saying there are so many untold stories. It's really complicated to talk about storytelling in some ways to me because I don't like always talking about really complicated topics or hardships people face as stories. Right? Because then you're almost a voyeur into some other person's life and challenges and things like that. But I think in terms of issues that I really think should be highlighted and want to tell, a lot of them are already being talked about. Just we need more. So for example the refugee crisis. All over Europe but also all over the States. There is this one man that I know from Chicago who has been there for two years. He's from Syria and he hasn't been able to see his family back home. His family is now in Saudi Arabia. And when he was in Syria he was in a band and that was like one of his favorite things he was doing you as a final year med student when he had to leave. But he also was in a band. Those were like his two things, and now he's over in the States he's no longer obviously a med student. He is working at a bar, but he still plays music. And one of the things he does is he plays guitar almost every day with his former band mates on Skype, and they're all spread across the world. So I think one is in Germany, and another one’s in France, and they have practice on Skype because they can't actually be in the same place. And I am spending a lot of time in Germany right now just because I'm over in Europe and traveling as much as possible and visiting friends, and I would love to interview the rest of the band. I think that's a side of the refugee story that you have not heard, that you have not seen. It’s sort of this story of hope and also this story of resilience. And that's, those are the types of stories that I really find to be quite beautiful but also untold in some ways.

Robin: 10:16 Very personal and relatable. What are the challenges to being in a position to actually tell those stories?

Marianna: 10:26 There's a lot of challenges with all of this. First of all asking myself every day should I even be telling this story? Like, why do I have the right to tell this story? Should I tell it differently, when I do choose to tell it? I mean, sometimes I look around the newsroom, and I realize how White it is. I mean just very very White, or very very in my case, British. And so I am sort of the odd one out. But you know, why do we tell stories of about people instead of hiring them to tell their own stories? That's something I think about quite a lot. You know why don't we actually ask people to talk about their own stories instead of you know...

Robin: 11:16 It sounds like you're trying to ask a question around: do you need to be involved in the storytelling? What is your role in the storytelling, rather than should people be telling their own story?

Marianna: 11:24 When you're telling someone's story, and you are a news organization, you are essentially benefiting from telling their story. Yes, you are exposing an issue and a topic and a problem in the world, and that is is absolutely true, and it's why these stories should continue to be told. But really thinking critically about how you're telling them, how you're representing people; Have you asked all the questions you need to ask? Have you really included them in the process of telling their own story? That's something that we we as journalists really need to do and need to do better, I think.

Robin: 11:56 You as a journalist are entering with your own internal filters. You know, the filters that sometimes come with privileges that have been given to us by the society we live in and all of that. What has grappling with those privileges been like for you as you come to understand them, the role they play in your life, and now the role they play for you as a journalist?

Marianna: 12:19 I think that it's kind of almost formed my understanding of myself professionally but also personally. I think pretty early on in high school I would say I started thinking about what it meant to be a White girl at the time, a White girl in Evanston, Illinois growing up in a pretty diverse suburb, but relatively affluent. And from that you know going on Thinking Beyond Borders and then heading down to New Orleans and going to Tulane, a rich private institution that has a really complicated history with the city of New Orleans, I mean all of that just sort of made me want to critically analyze who I was and what it meant to be who I am. And I've enjoyed getting involved in true self-analysis but also an examination of my own power and privilege. And I think I have to do that every day as a journalist. I mean honestly every day, because there's just not only thinking about the stories that I'm going to cover, but thinking about how I'm going to approach covering different stories because of who I am. So it's a constant thing that's on my mind, and I don't think every field kind of requires that, but I'm pretty grateful that journalism does for me.

Robin: 13:28 Are there tools or processes that you use to help you in that reflection work?

Marianna: 13:35 Listening is the biggest one, and that's why storytelling is so awesome because you know I'm not I'm not sitting there telling you what I think this person's story is. If you're really doing good ethical journalism you are forming your story based on what other people are saying. The quotes you're getting from them, how they really feel. You know you hear a lot of criticism of journalists and media organizations who just take people's words and try and frame and create the story that they want, and that is one of the biggest problems because you have people doing that. But I mean the best way to do it is to not do that. In terms of tools about thinking about it though, yeah I mean so in addition to listening probably just continuing to read and research and not get stock in like only reading what your parents read are only reading what your friends read or only looking at your own Facebook news feed, but really thinking outside of that, and trying to find other sources of information and other perspectives all the time.

Robin: 14:39 Is there a story that you reported on recently where you found yourself grappling with your assumptions, and you know that that was a challenge to doing the reporting well?

Marianna: 14:48 Absolutely. But those are also the stories that I really really like to tell. This isn't so recent. This is from last January, but at the inauguration I actually specifically went to the inauguration to cover it because I wanted to talk to women. I wanted to talk to young, millennial women who voted for President Trump. I come from a fairly liberal town. Chicago you know was very much a part of where Obama launched his campaign in 2008. And so most of the people that I know were kind of part of that movement, and I was just floored by Trump's selection as other people. And that's not something that I talk about too much professionally in a journalism context because you know there's journalists don't always like to admit their biases. Journalists don't always like to admit where they do come from, but I think it's pretty important to admit where you come from so that people understand where you're writing from. So one of my goals was to go to the inauguration and talk to young women, and that was an amazing experience because what I realized as I entered the grounds of the inauguration was not only were there a lot of young women, but they were incredible, and smart, and funny, and they could be my friends. And I do believe that the media did a great disservice to these women, but also to voters generally sort of by writing them all off in certain ways. And I'm not saying that all of the media did this, but I do think that that was a general feeling from many media organizations, even very prominent, famous, good ones. And so interviewing these women, I mean it just, it was just a really great experience. But it is kind of hard when you hear people saying things that you just completely disagree with. So when you hear someone saying that “undocumented immigrants are the problem with the world and should go back to Mexico. You know, they’re the problem.” And when you hear things like that as a journalist, and as an opinionated journalist if that's not your opinion, sometimes it's hard to kind of stay quiet, especially when you're in a very casual setting in a conversational interview. But it's also really important not to, because otherwise how are we going to hear these voices, how are we going to listen to these people, and people from all over the world who have different opinions. So that was a really formative day and also a formative article that I wrote.

Robin: 17:15 Where is that article if folks are interested in finding it.

Marianna: 17:19 Yeah definitely. So it's on Public Radio International PRI.org. It was actually one of the most -- it was the second most viewed article on the site that day for the Inauguration Day, and I think it..I...I believe it's because I quoted the individuals just as they said it. You know, I didn't try and frame it as a story that I was interested in writing to get my opinion out there. It was really just how these millennial women believe Trump will make America great again. And then it was just their quotes verbatim as they said them, because I think that that was kind of what we were missing so much with the coverage of the election was just true voices.

Robin: 17:54 Is the change in technology related to journalism helping with that? You've done work obviously as you mentioned with PRI, but you've also worked with Snapchat Discover, you're currently working for the BBC helping them understand how better to use Snapchat and other social media to do effective storytelling. Is that going to help to alleviate the problem that you're talking about?

Marianna: 18:18 I think it's creating new opportunities, but it's also it's not fixing the problem that we have. I think that we need to use technology to solve the problem that has gotten so bad. You know I mean as newspapers go out of style if you will, but as people stop reading newspapers, which is happening -- I mean it's it's -- my parents won’t admit it because they love their New York Times, but I don't know a single person my age who picks up a newspaper and reads it unless they're trying to look cool on the train or look really smart and get a date. But I really I just don't think that it's just not done often. Maybe they'll buy a magazine once in awhile, but it's just not the main way. So I think we need to give apps like Snapchat kind of a fighting chance to try and fill in those gaps. They can not make up for local newspapers dying, but they can provide us a window into voices that we would not otherwise get. And arguably they're giving us even more sources and more voices than we've ever had before. I mean even just looking at the Snap Maps feature or Snapchat search feature where you can see stories from all over the world that are created by the average person who just has Snapchat, that type of insight is so new and so refreshing, but not many journalists are taking advantage of that and seeing that as a way to find stories, find sources, find ideas, and collect their breaking news. So I'm hoping that people start to realize that it's a good resource. That's sort of what I'm trying to convince people of at this point.

Robin: 19:53 Do you worry though that citizen journalism will eclipse professional journalism?

Marianna: 19:59 I mean, I think we've seen such a spike in subscriptions, you know, to for example the New York Times and The Washington Post since the election that people started to realize wow, if we don't start paying for news again, something bad is going to happen. People are going to really believe fake news. So I mean, I think a couple of things at play here. You know, you have so not only do you have citizen journalism, but you also have fake news, and you also have really really opinionated political journalism that is meant to completely sway a person and is not always factual. You can’t call that the same thing as fake news necessarily, but very biased news that's almost more worrisome in some ways than citizen journalism. So I think seeing citizen journalists as a resource, but always remembering to pay for your news, pay for credible news, and you know find organizations that you trust, and not just get your news off Facebook is crucial.

Robin: 20:58 I know you're relatively, you know you're only a few years into this career, but have you been able to create a reasonable lifestyle for yourself as a journalist? Are you getting paid, and do you see opportunities on the horizon to continue to grow in your position.  

Marianna: 21:14 I’m pretty new at it. I am pretty new. I have not figured out a way to prove you know the adults in my life, I know I'm an adult, but the older adults in my life who said “why are you getting a masters in journalism? That's crazy.” So I haven't been able to prove them wrong by having a really well-paying job quite yet. But I'm confident that I will. And I think for a couple of reasons. I think that I think that thinking about citizen journalism, and Snapchat, and other apps like that as tools, not as things to be afraid of is the way that news organizations need to go. And I think that that's something that I've been able to do. But also because I have faith that people want to continue reading good journalism, viewing good journalism, watching good documentaries, and they don't want to consume crap. I think that there was kind of BuzzFeed listicle quizzes phase where people just got really excited about those kind of easy clicks, you know click-bait, stuff like that. But I think there's kind of this pendulum swing in the opposite direction. So I'm hoping that I can answer that question a little bit differently in a couple of months. And I look forward to telling you all about it.

Robin: 22:29 As I remember 19 year old Marianna getting ready to head off to freshman year at Tulane University, I remember one of the things you talking about was the fact that it was still the post-Katrina years in New Orleans and that Tulane was taking a real strong position as a university to play an important role in the rebuilding of the city. And in a way that was going to be more equable and just. How did your understanding of social justice change during that period of time as an undergrad at Tulane?

Marianna: 23:06 I think that going to Tulane in that time was one of the most incredible decisions that I've made. I didn't fit in in the culture at Tulane, but I learned more from my college experience I think than a lot of my friends at other universities did because I was a citizen of New Orleans. I looked around at my position as a White student in New Orleans and started thinking about how messed up that was, and started researching the history of Tulane and the very problematic history that it does have with racism. And I got involved with an organization called Students Organized Against Racism as well as started the Queer Feminist Collective at Tulane with a couple of my friends, and we got really involved in social justice work, and a lot of that work revolved around getting connected to the city of New Orleans, and a lot of the activists and professionals in New Orleans who were doing similar work. And I got to know some really incredible people and was involved in a constant critical analysis of myself as a White student. So it was a lot. It was intense sometimes.

Robin: 24:17 You studied a lot of social justice theory while you were there, too, you know, in the classroom and such. Has it been hard translating the theory into practice both through the work you were trying to do on campus and now as a journalist?

Marianna: 24:31 Of course. There's a couple of things. I mean the most important and the most prevalent in my life is that, you know, you get comfortable with a certain way of living, the way that you grow up. And no matter how radical you get, or no matter how social justice focused you get at certain periods of your life, actually sticking to those beliefs and taking that theory and putting it into practice really does mean altering your lifestyle in a lot of ways. I think on a personal level I saw that right after school when you know I had no job. I had no job coming out of school, and I ended up taking a consulting job. And it was it was kind of hard for me, right? Because not only was my work -- my work had nothing to do with social justice. I was not having critical conversations. But, I also was potentially involved in some problematic work, and I don't want to say that for sure. But, you know, I think that we were doing public sector consulting, and I think there's a lot of different perspectives on whether or not, you know, private companies should be hired by the government to fix things, right? So I'm much happier in journalism because I can bring social justice focus to my work and I do. But even now it's it's challenging to live that in my personal life and my day to day life.

Robin: 25:48 Are there challenges you are struggling with at the moment around finding that balance between contentedness and happiness in the present day and your social justice values?

Marianna: 26:00 Absolutely. I mean, I think even what does it mean being an American in London? What does it mean that I can so easily get a visa to another country at this moment, and go and live abroad, and work for a major news organization? That just is and it's not, it's just not fair, first of all. But also, it's it goes against a lot of what I believe is so important, which is kind of change starting from a local level. I do think that's a huge thing when when you realize the privilege that you do have and that you're kind of just living that privilege every day, and you're taking advantage of this opportunity. Obviously it's a good thing. But how often are you really questioning and thinking about what that means for other people? So I've just I think that's one thing that's coming up right now. I also think one of the biggest things with my gender and sexuality studies was, I remember when I was about 20 I came home for one of the holidays and I was like “marriage is stupid. I'm never getting married. I hate it, and monogamy is the dumbest thing on earth.” And I remember saying that. And you know to my whole family, and I told all my sisters that they were stupid for thinking that monogamy was the way to go because that's just, it's just part of the hetero-patriarchy, and we're all just convinced that's the way to go. So anyways, I definitely went through that very very radical phase where I did not believe that any of the social norms that exist in the world would impact me. And of course they do. You know, of course they do so. I mean just on a personal level I think about that a lot.

Robin: 27:36 How did your family react to that?

Marianna: 27:38 Oh my God they hated me. I was the worst. I mean I think a lot of parents can probably empathize with like seeing your child go through that and wanting to support them, but also kind of knowing that that type of righteous thinking is a phase. I mean that's what my parents would say. And I think a lot of students would also understand what it's like to be in that phase and being like “why doesn't my mom get it? Like what is going on? Why doesn't she see that she is oppressed in a marriage right now?” And you know now being a little bit older and realizing oh that's probably going to happen for me in the next few years, you know there's still that voice in my mind that--

Robin: 28:20 That being that you're going in the next few years you're going to end up married or that you're going to end up oppressed?

Marianna: 28:30 Both! Right? Like, it's just, I will be surprised if I'm married, but I'm probably getting married. What does that say about me? I think, I mean, I think that's a very real thing that a lot of strong feminist women still grapple with. Yeah. I'll let you know maybe in five years I'll change my mind yet again. But at this point, probably.

Robin: 28:53 Keep us posted on how it comes out. We’re anxious to hear. When we hear about the lives of journalists, they often are working all hours of the day, seven days a week. It really is a lifestyle not just a profession. You're stepping into that in the early stages of your career, as you mentioned not getting paid well, but really aspiring to do really important journalistic work. Have you been able to find a balance so far?

Marianna: 29:29 I think I'm approaching it a little bit differently than a lot of my peers. I know that the demands are insane, and I don't necessarily want to give my entire life to my career. Sometimes I feel a little bit bad about that, but I also I also have other priorities. It's an unfortunate thing for journalism that there is this reputation but also a reality that journalists don't have good family lives, and they just work all the time and become totally immersed in their work. Obviously that's not the case for every journalist, but you can kind of see a trend if you look at some of the top journalists from all over the world. I don't really know. I don't really know how I'm going to approach it, but I'm not really looking to become a foreign correspondent. I'm not trying to be on television. And you know a famous journalist on TV. I'm really looking to kind of enter this field and find a more stable route and a more stable path. That to me is why this digital development, but also getting into thinking about where journalism is headed, is so interesting to me. Because that's just that, I think it will allow me to sort of be more on the strategy side of things than necessarily in the field reporting every day. We do need people who are in the field reporting every day. But at this point in time, that takes so much sacrifice, and it's just it's it's a challenge that I don't personally want for my lifestyle. I'm not happy doing that. So yeah I think there are a lot of different roles within a news organization within journalism where you can kind of have a good work life balance.

Robin: 31:09 I mean, in my own work I can say I constantly feel the pull to want to step back into the work, even at the end of the day, even when I'm tired, even when I have competing interests. Are there processes that you go through or habits that you've developed to put limits on that? Because it sounds as though you're trying to approach this in really intentional ways.

Marianna: 31:35 I cry sometimes. I really I really cry sometimes. I think like, I get so into a project, and it's all I can think about for days. And I know, I know it's not healthy, but it's also how the creative process works for me. Like when I'm excited about something, for example, I was doing this project last year, I was collecting Snapchats from people all over the country talking about DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is something that Obama instituted that protects people who've come to the United States as a kid, but who are technically undocumented immigrants. And I just remember staying up till 4:00 in the morning trying to collect snaps from people. And finally I start calling you know even Senators and Representatives trying to get them to send me Snapchats talking about DACA. And it worked. It worked. I remember opening my e-mail in the morning and finding a Snapshot from Senator Durbin and from Representative Schakowsky from Illinois, and just being so excited that, you know, because I kind of aimed high and didn't stop working, that it panned out. I think though that, well there's a couple of things. I think first of all, when you sort of don't realize that taking breaks is essential for doing good work, that can be really hard. I think we even see students feel that way. I think you know everyone knows or is personally the person who is a perfectionist has to get straight A's and will sacrifice nights of sleep just to study. But at a certain point that catches up to you. Same thing goes for work. So I really am just trying to enter my career with the knowledge that you know I need to be a full person when I'm coming to work in the morning. I wish that there were better laws, for example, in the States, better vacation time, better maternity leave, things like that that really supported people taking more time off. There aren't really at the moment, but I hope we can become more European. That would be nice.

Robin: 33:44 Do you ever worry -- I mean your work is so grounded in your convictions about the way you want to see the world and the contributions you want to make -- do you ever worry that your work is not going to be enough to achieve the things you want to achieve?

Marianna: 34:01 I don't really know if I have anything I want to achieve. I guess I want to be content, and live a good life, and go hiking as much as possible. Those are kind of things that I -- no honestly, like those are the things that I really want. And feeling fulfilled. There are some people that say -- I can’t remember who said this, and I feel bad about that -- but some people say that as long as you feel autonomy, motivation, and purpose, with those three things you can be happy in almost any job. And I think that, I mean having worked in various jobs since I left college, but even on summers during college, you know I kind of know that to be true. One of my favorite jobs was working at a restaurant. And that was -- I didn't really have any grand goals associated with that, besides you know making as many tips as possible. But that was just such a -- that was great work for me.

Robin: 34:57 And yet, you seem to be driven by by some pretty serious convictions. I mean you've accomplished some pretty important things as an activist in your undergraduate and in your journalistic career. I mean Public Radio International and the BBC and these are not small outlets. These are these are major outlets, and you're telling stories that you feel need to be told. And even from the story you told about reporting on DACA there was, there was a real deep conviction that you needed to get this out and do it well. So do you ever feel a tension between the self-care and balance and wellness in your life and in your conviction to make a difference in the world?

Marianna: 35:38 I see what you're saying. I guess I do have things I really care about, but I think I learned pretty early on, probably with TBB, that I I cannot change the world as a single person. I think that's one of the reasons I'm really interested in media in journalism because you actually have the ability to see your impact immediately. It's a real privilege to be able to write something and have people read it. It's beyond a privilege. It's a responsibility actually, and that makes me do better work, just thinking about that. But I have things I'm really passionate about, issues that I care deeply about, stories that I want to be told. But I know if I don't sleep, I won't be telling them. You know like, I don't know. It's just as simple as that. Obviously, what I do in my work is important. What everyone does in their work is important. But if you're not living a kind life, if you're not living a healthy life, and those are your values, it doesn't make sense. I feel like I hear so many people talk about kindness and peace and do peace circles and you know that's like that is their work, and they go home and they are their kids because they're so stressed out. Like that's just not -- I don't believe in that, I don't think that that's that's right. Why do we celebrate people who never stop? I mean, that's because we like heroes, we like to see people kind of sacrifice a little bit of themselves for the greater good.

Robin: 37:14 Or all of themselves for the greater good.

Marianna: 37:18 Right. Yeah. That's really interesting. And maybe I have the privilege not to do that. That’s the other thing I think about.

Robin: 37:22 Exactly, and I think that is the flipside of it, right? Which is that you know those who step into social justice or social impact work most times are stepping into it because they do see injustices in the world that are real that are present, that are timely, and that pausing for self-care as someone who's who's trying to create change around these issues feels selfish. Right? You're currently working at the BBC helping them understand how to tell stories with a snapshot. What role do you see social media and perhaps new platforms, new media platforms, playing in the future of journalism?

Marianna: 38:08 I think the biggest thing when talking to veteran journalists is convincing them not to be afraid of social media. And I think even a lot of young people, and people all over the world, not just journalists, are afraid of social media and its impact on right now truth and news in what we're seeing we're afraid of this algorithm that's controlling sort of what we view. And we should be afraid of it to some extent. But I also think that we really need to look at social media as an opportunity. We've seen so many movements and so many stories be exposed just from social media. From Black Lives Matter, to what happened to bring Arab Spring, to -- I mean, I think so much of the reason that gay marriage passed in the states, and there has been such an acceptance in the circles that I run in of people who are transgender and of, I mean, all different types of LGBT rights -- I think social media is an incredible way to share stories, and connect with people, and have the average person who has a very interesting story to tell, a very interesting problem to share, be able to broadcast that to a lot of people. And news organizations and journalists need to see that as a resource, not as a problem. They need to see citizen journalists, and people who want to contribute media, photos, and their own perspective as opportunities, not as you know things to be afraid of. Obviously, there's issues that when you get into topics of verification. And how do you test and see if this footage is real? And how do you get people to actually, for example, watch your program if they can just go to Twitter and find out that news much faster and in a much more real kind of unfiltered way? And that's something news organizations are dealing with. But my answer in my response is kind of just like -- let's hop on board let's find a way to tell the real stories, the interesting stories, as quickly as possible to these audiences across social media. Let's find a way to incorporate their voices into our storytelling in an even more powerful way. I think this is something that Snapchat has done. Snapchat, for example, I mean Snapchat has had stories from war zones, and they don't have reporters. They have a couple of journalists working in New York, but they're not sending people to Iraq, yet they have some of the best content from Mosul, for example. And from the front lines of the war in Iraq that I have ever seen, and it's because they allow people to submit their own content, and submit their own experiences. And they obviously verify it and check it to see if it's real. But, they're not shying away from these voices. They're not shying away from this contribution. Instead, they're telling some of the best stories to the entire world this way. So if the BBC and other news organizations kind of hop on board this model, I think that they'll be very successful. It's only when we get nervous, and we see it as a threat do we start to fail.

Robin: 41:09 Story of most innovations in the world.

Marianna: 41:13 But I'm not saying it's not super complicated. It's really hard when you have to compete with cat videos. You know it's really hard as an organization to decide, like do we post this viral video of a bear opening a refrigerator at night taking the milk and walking outside. That was a conversation I've been in in the last few weeks. And what does it mean that major news organizations have to talk about that? Like what other stories are they not telling because they have to compete with those type of views? Right? So I don't think they've totally figured it out. I don't think any news organization has figured out how to exist on social media. But everyone's trying, or they should be trying more maybe. That's my opinion.

Robin: 41:57 At the end of every episode we ask our guests the same question, and so it's now your turn. What's the most important question you are asking right now?

Marianna: 42:07 OK. I will say my personal life, the personal question that I'm asking myself all the time is: Where should I live? Where should I try and root myself? Because I'm at the beginning of my career and trying to figure that out. And it does matter, thinking about that. Media is really condensed and focused in New York, some in D.C., but there is a part of me that's drawn to doing more local journalism and trying to be in the middle part of the country to find more stories, to find better angles. So that's a big question for me right now. Or should I be abroad? Should I stay in London, or should I move somewhere else? Can I give one more answer?

Robin: 42:47 Of course.

Marianna: 42:49 OK. This is the question that I've been asking since the election. How is Breitbart covering it? Because when I read an article, I have to go check what the other side is saying. And that's just because most of the news I'm getting is coming from the New York Times and The Washington Post, organizations that I think are incredibly credible. But, the White House and many people do not find as credible. So I get Fox News alerts. I read Breitbart every day, and I try to the best of my ability to really open my mind to the different ways stories are being told and the different ways issues are being covered. And I think that's something that we all have to do, or else we're going to be completely blindsided by the next election no matter what your politics are.  

Robin: 43:39 Marianna, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Marianna: 43:43 Oh my gosh, thank you for listening to me talk. I'm so grateful for getting to chat with you, but also for the opportunity to share a little bit of what I'm doing.

Robin Pendoley - Host

Robin is Founder & President of Thinking Beyond Borders, an educational institution helping young people develop the capacities to be exceptional social impact leaders. With a BA in International Development at UCLA and an EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Robin’s work is focused on understanding how meaningful impact is created and replicated. He is humbled and inspired every day by the learning and work of the students, educators, and alumni of the Thinking Beyond Borders community.

Julia Jones - Editor & Producer

Julia is an alumt of TBB’s Global Gap Year class of 2012. She received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises from Syracuse University. Having studied and worked around the world, she has now joined the Thinking Beyond Borders staff, supporting our US operations and serving as a Program Leader for our Gap Year Programs. She is thrilled to continue her exploration of social justice, global issues, and deeper cultural understanding alongside students.

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