With ten years of experience in journalism, Laura Gottesdiener is not new to covering protests. She reported on demonstrations such as the Standing Rock Sioux resistance over the Dakota Access pipeline and the 2015 Paris U.N. climate summit protests
Her journalism career started taking shape in college. She started writing about issues that she experienced or was exposed to firsthand, like wrestling and hospice care. But it wouldn’t be until she was at the Arizona Republic as a features reporter, she said, that she would see the role an outlet or journalist could have in the political sphere.
Gottesdiener recalls how, despite being a conservative publication, the Arizona Republic had come out against the Arizona SB 1070, or the so called “show me your papers law”.
“It was my first experience being a journalist in an extremely political environment that I was becoming conscious of the political environment that I was in”, Gottesdiener explained.
Her evolution going into advocacy journalism continued to take form. While at the Huffington Post writing about politics, she did a series about the California prison system and, while speaking to activists, she said, she came to realize there was still a lot more she needed to know about the political realm.
“I also thought (at the moment), I don’t think I have the political framework to do this job and I don’t feel comfortable reporting for a national outlet where because of my own political ignorance I might reproduce narrative and stories and frameworks that are not helpful”, she said.
So she quit her job and started working with activist organizations for a year before returning. Her learning continues, only that this time through the steps she must take to prioritize her wellbeing while reporting.
Prior to taking the four-dayHostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) course offered by the International Women’s Media Foundation, Gottesdiener said she would show up to protests with flip flops or clothes that wouldn’t protect her exposed skin, such as was the case in the 2015 Paris protests when smoke gas canisters were thrown.
Now, she said, she is aware things such as making sure she is wearing appropriate shoes to keep her feet safe, having her hair secure or a jacket.
“It made me think about common sense things that I never really thought about all the way up to how do I help with first aid, how can I be useful and, if it comes to it, how do I deal with state surveillance”, she added.
Although we’ve only met for a few days during the HEFAT training, I’ve seen how Laura has this incredible ability to not only throw a good punch but to also listen – a trait that is a must for a good journalist. I’ve learned so much from her thus far and know I will continue to do so.
-Perla Arellano Fraire, Guadalajara Reporting Fellow