Mitra Kaboli is my fierce and talented reporting partner for this fellowship. Given her amazing radio career, especially as Senior Producer at The Heart, I was a little intimidated to ask her to join me in Guatemala. So I was ecstatic when she said yes.
Still, a reporting trip to Central America with hostile environment training was a little out of Mitra’s wheelhouse. She’s worked exclusively in the United States and Canada, and has never had the desire to enter a conflict zone. “I’m not that kind of reporter,” she told me. “I don’t want to go to a war zone.” Fortunately, Guatemala isn’t a war zone anymore (at least not in the traditional sense), and Mitra ended up loving the training in Mexico City. Her specialty at the HEFAT was breaking out of zip tie restraints and repeatedly kneeing attackers in the groin. I’ve seen her do both. It’s terrifying. I will never try to kidnap or attack Mitra.
This fellowship has been a big shift from Mitra’s career so far. And she is excited for that: “I have been dying to be challenged in my work life for a while.” Her stories straddle a thin line between art and journalism, so she senses that she stands out from the other fellows. “I feel a little bit intimidated among this cohort of real capital ‘J’ Journalists,” she told me. “What I do is very different.” What Mitra does is tell incredibly intimate stories about people’s lives, diving into taboos that most people are afraid to touch. Crafting her audio pieces with care, she pays close attention before, during and after reporting for the types of sounds she wants to weave in along with a subject’s voice. “Specifically because I work in sound and audio, craft is part of the process,” she told me.
Mitra owns the title of artist as well as journalist: “I think you can have it both ways.”
– Katie Schlechter