“My favorite thing about reporting is meeting people from all walks of life who are always changing the way I think and see the world.”
Anna Jean is a journalist who has written stories for the New York Times, CNN and Buzzfeed to name a few. When she turned 22 she decided to move to Brazil where she now covers stories on everything from the countries development, politics and culture.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? If so what lead you to studying to become a journalist?
I didn’t always want to be a writer — I studied politics and saw myself going into international relations or diplomacy. But I wrote a lot for my major and always enjoyed it. While most of my classmates struggled to hit word limits I always found myself way over and having to cut back (which still happens!)
When I came to Rio, I first was an intern at a NGO and writing for their bilingual news site. I reached out to the local English-language paper here in Rio and starting writing for them, which was my first introduction to journalism. From there I started working as an editorial assistant to the Latin American correspondent for the Guardian and started picking up bigger international clients — I fell in love with the profession so I kept with it!
What was your biggest takeaway from studying abroad (In Spain or at Sea)?
Studying abroad really fueled my desire to pursue an internationally-focused career, learn other languages, and work in other countries. Both experiences inspired me to dream big and showed me that moving to Brazil and making a career here was actually in reach.
What made you want to learn Portuguese as opposed to any other language?
I mostly learned Portuguese because I was interested in Brazil and had the dream of moving here after I graduated from college. I already spoke Spanish and my university had an accelerated Portuguese class for Spanish speakers. I love the language and speaking it has opened so many doors for me.
What was the most difficult part about moving to a foreign country?
There’s been a lot! From logistics — like finding housing, getting visas and building a professional network from the ground up, to personal things like being far from family and friends — it’s not an easy road but it’s been worth it.
Why Brazil and more specifically, why Rio de Janeiro?
I was really interested in Brazil in college. I read the paper on “BRIC” countries for a class, which was about how four developing countries had the potential to be the next economic powerhouses — Brazil, Russia, India and China. Plus, with the World Cup and the Olympics coming up, Brazil really felt like it was on the rise and would be the country of the future. I wrote a senior thesis about the rise of the left wing in Latin America, so I had a lot of academic interest.
Some six years later, a lot of those promises about Brazil’s future have fallen short, but it’s been a fascinating ride to be here and report on it. Brazil is still a dynamic, complicated, beautiful and diverse country and I’ve been lucky to call it home for these years!
Rio is Brazil’s cultural capital and was really stepping into the spotlight with hosting the World Cup final and the Summer Olympics. Plus, it’s also incredibly beautiful and a really fun city to live in.
What are your favorite stories to write about?
My favorite stories are usually about human rights and social justice. I love writing about Brazilian culture — food, travel, music, and outdoor adventures.
In general, I love getting a glimpse into a whole other world — like really seeing the ins and outs of the Olympics at Rio 2016, or following around a high fashion model while on a photo shoot for a profile I wrote.
What do you think really makes a story?
Something that sheds light on the human condition and is something we all relate too!
What work are you most proud of?
I recently co-wrote a story for the Washington Post about a favela that after some years of improvement, upward mobility and a thriving economy, has been at the center of violent conflict. It was a challenging story logistically and emotionally but I was really proud of the final product, which was on the front page of the paper a few weeks ago.
Last year, six months after the Olympics had ended, I wrote a story about how the venues had largely been abandoned for the New York Times and it ran on the front page. It was important to hold public power accountable for what ended up being many empty promises and great to see the story get a lot of exposure.
Have you ever thought about being a foreign correspondent in other countries?
Yes, absolutely! I hope to report in many other countries throughout my career — Mexico, Cuba, South Korea and Kenya are a few places I dream about reporting from.
Have you ever written anything that made you think differently about the world?
My favorite thing about reporting is meeting people from all walks of life who are always changing the way I think and see the world.