Women Journalists in the 21st Century: Laura Paskus
Laura Paskus, 37, is a freelance journalist in Albuquerque, NM, contributing her articles to several media outlets such as MS., New Mexico Magazine, The Progressive, Columbia Journalism Review, Women’s eNews, High Country News, Santa Fe Reporter, New Mexico Independent, Forest, Audubon, Orion and Law & Politics. For these media, she has reported on water supplies, climate change, immigration policy and the unsolved murders of 11 Albuquerque women. She is also working for Tribal College Journal as an interim editor now. After six years as an archeologist and ethnographer, Paskus started her journalism career in 2002, as an intern at High Country News in Colorado and then moved back to Albuquerque to start a field office as Southwest Correspondent for the paper. After four years, she decided to become a freelance reporter to have a more flexible schedule with her one year old daughter. Currently, she continues as an independent reporter and editor based in New Mexico with a focus on environmental and cultural issues in the southwestern United States. Paskus tries to give exposure to stories (and sides of the story) that the mainstream media might be missing in an attempt to simplify issues for readers. She earned a B.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Virginia. She can be contacted at: laura.paskus(at)gmail.com.
Paskus was interviewed by Soram Kim, 20, an exchange student who is Chinese studies major at Kookmin University in South Korea. She came to the University of Iowa to study journalism.
Soram Kim: Why did you become involved in journalism?
Laura Paskus: Because I was frustrated with the state of the media in America during the beginning of the George W. Bush Administration, and I thought that If I was going to complain about the lack of transparent coverage of environmental issues, I should try and do something about it.
SK: How do you define journalism today?
LP: Sorry. I’m not sure I can answer this question…
SK: How has technology (such as Internet) influenced or affected your career?
LP: Although I appreciate the convenience of Google and email and other technology as much as anyone else, I think that the Internet has had some negative impacts: Newspaper readers seem unwilling to pay for content because they can find information for free online (which has caused many newspapers to pay reporters less) Also, some reporters rely too much on web-based research rather than face-time with sources. I also believe the Internet has changed the way readers consume news and information. I fear sometimes that people don’t think as deeply about issues when they read a quick hit on the Internet, with all of its links and distractions, as when they read a news story in print.
SK: How will technology affect the future of journalism?
LP: I’m not quite sure, honestly.
SK: What one word would you use to describe the status of women in journalism today?
LP: Badass. By and large, the female journalists I know are smart, savvy, hardworking, and willing to tackle difficult subjects. The female journalist I know are incredibly passionate about the work they do and the role they play in society.
SK: What role(s) will women have in future journalism?
LP: I hope the influence of women continues to grow within journalism.
SK: How do your major, anthropology, and your previous career, as an archaeologist, help your journalism career?
LP: It brought me into contact with a variety of people, gave me expertise in certain fields (including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws), and made me feel excited to share information with the public, as opposed to just private clients or academics.
SK: What made you become an independent reporter?
LP: I wanted to be writing stories on a variety of topics, for many different audiences, instead of writing for only one audience.
SK: What is like to be a freelance journalist? What is an advantage and disadvantage of it?
LP: I enjoy pitching stories that are important to me and working with a variety of publications and editors. I like the freedom of my schedule, especially since I’m a single mother. Surviving financially as a freelancer, however, can be very difficult. The lack of health insurance is also a major issue.
SK: What is your typical day as a freelance journalist who has to manage their own time?
LP: Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. I work whenever I have to–that oftentimes means over holidays and weekends, and sometimes through the night. The most important thing as a freelancer isn’t how well your write, it’s how hard you’re willing to work.
SK: What do you think about the objectivity in newspaper reporting? Is it okay for newspapers to take sides?
LP: I don’t think newspapers should ever take sides. Reporters should tell the facts and always be fair. Being “fair” however, doesn’t mean simply quoting sources on two sides of the issue, especially if one of the sources is a paid public relations official who may be trying to hide some aspect of the truth or confuse the public.
SK: What’s your ultimate goal as a journalist?
LP: To have a reader curl up on the couch at the end of a long, hard day and to read one of my stories—then feel like she learned something new about the world.
This is part of a series of profiles of JAWS members by University of Iowa students. For a complete listing, see this page.