Journalism with a Global Focus
You graduated with a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Minnesota—did it prepare you for your initial move into the “real world”?
After first finishing a master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, I landed a job with Washington Independent Television. Our small team, working out of the Radio-TV Gallery on Capitol Hill, produced news packages for local stations. Certainly the political science background helped me understand the political process, and the journalism courses helped me find the essence of the story and write it under deadline.
Did you study abroad while a student at the University?
I spent a month in Passau, Germany on a special German language course for 20 journalists and journalism students. I overheard a conversation in the Murphy Hall library about the course, which had a last minute opening. Next week, I am seeing one woman from the course; at the time she was an ABC News producer. She is now a journalism professor at Columbia University.
Did you intern abroad during or after graduation from the U?
Not specifically. I received another month-long fellowship to study in Bonn during grad school where I met someone from Deutsche Welle, an operation similar to Voice of America. That connection ultimately led to a year-long stint working as a reporter on European Journal, a television program produced in Cologne that aired on PBS stations.
How did you continue to grow your career and experiences?
I always cast out a wide net and work on projects—or actual jobs (CNN, NBC, CNBC, WFAA)—that come into it. If I have no projects, I look for new ones. However, at one point, I hit a wall with television news and effectively stopped working as a paid journalist to focus on my family. Soon after I was asked to edit a publication for a London charity. That got me into the print world.
What do you like most about what you do?
I love taking an idea and developing a story on it. I enjoy all the parts—the interviews, the research, the photos, the writing—once I get that first paragraph right! I also love seeing the work in print. Best of all is when I hear the story made an impact. For instance, a NYT piece on Yinghua, a Chinese immersion school in Minneapolis, put the school in an international spotlight that yielded well-deserved recognition.
Jane A. Peterson (BA ‘79, journalism and political science) is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to The New York Times and Forbes Asia. She currently lives in Singapore.