When Amy Littlefield, 32, reflects on her career in journalism, she lets off that most admirable and necessary of qualities for a reporter— humility.
She recalls one of her first experiences interviewing sources in Spanish, for a story on migrant women who had been caught up in a raid in Rhode Island years ago.
“These were women who had suffered domestic violence in their home countries and had come to the United States, so I spent a lot of time with them listening to their stories,” she tells me over dinner on our first night in Guadalajara, a balmy October evening.
It was important to speak to them in their own language, Amy tells me, because “there’s a power dynamic inherent in the reporting relationship, especially when we’re interviewing people who are marginalised– someone like an undocumented immigrant.”
“They’re in a disempowered position, so I think if it’s possible to meet them in the language that they’re most comfortable in, even if it means that I’m stressed a little bit, as long as I can get the story right, I think that’s really important,” she says.
For Amy, the notion that a reporter’s job is to face danger in order to tell the stories of the oppressed and the underserved is intrinsic to the creed of our profession.
“I take very seriously the cliche that journalists should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” she says.
For that reason, she has often reported stories on the plight of women and LGBTQ communities, to “represent with as much respect and accuracy as possible the voices of marginalised people,” she says.
One of her first experiences was as a student journalist tailing the reporter Soledad Jarquin Edgar, who wrote stories about violence against women in Oaxaca— a difficult subject for which the dangers are all too apparently.
Crimes could be committed with impunity, Amy tells me, and recently, she learnt that the daughter of her former mentor had been killed.
If the dangers of reporting in Mexico were not apparent then, they have made themselves more deeply and immediately felt now.
A requirement for the IWMF fellowship we are embarking on is a gruelling four day hostile environment training curriculum on how to react to precarious scenarios that journalists must sometimes confront.
“The IWMF has really made me feel prepared for the various situations that we can face as reporters in Mexico,” Amy says, particularly for her and her reporting partner, who are chasing stories on abortion access for women in Mexico.
However, she adds: “What’s more on my mind is compassion for, and admiration for the journalists who go out and do that work every single day here.
“I’m thinking more about journalists who live in Mexico,” she says “I’m only spending a few weeks here.”
– Boer Deng, Fall 2018 Guadalajara Reporting Fellow