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first person


StartingOut


Joana Ramiro, a reporter with The Morning Star, says that she owes her inspiration to Tintin


L


egend goes that at a time I couldn’t yet speak properly, there I was, transfixed by the stories


of a young reporter, traveling around the world, busting criminals and exposing injustice. A Belgian boy with a quiff more famous than that of Zayn Malik, a journalist called Tintin. At four I might have said I wanted to be a ballerina, but my heart likes to believe that from that very first bedtime reading moment, my professional destiny was set. This said, my journey towards


journalism was a crooked one. My way in was political activism. I did plenty of campaigning as a university student around the Palestinian struggle, against closures of college departments, and supporting all sorts of workers’ issues. I joined a Marxist group and I found myself doing a hell of a lot of reading that had little to do with my degree. Still feeling undernourished, I started to write a blog with a series of pieces on what was going through my mind every week. Anything was game, from war to the X Factor. Mostly, I wrote about what was going on around me. About campus occupations against cuts, about the 2010 student movement, about Palestine and what I saw in occupied lands and refugee camps. Then 2011 came around and, in a moment of enthusiasm, I decided to go and witness the revolution taking place in the streets of Cairo. I was preparing to do a masters in Middle East Politics, I had someone to come along with me, so why not? I took cameras, notebooks and a mobile phone.


20 | theJournalist When I got there most reporters


were stuck in their hotel rooms, covering the events from their balconies. Several newspapers didn’t even have someone on the ground. With a postgrad degree, a good level of politics and international relations nous and speaking a couple of languages other than English, I started reporting from Egypt. It was a raw and accelerating experience. I interviewed people on the streets, took pictures of burnt cars and barricades, was interrogated by militarised police, and met the Independent’s Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk on Tahrir Square. I came back to London a mere days before the fall of president Hosni Mubarak feeling like I had found a purpose in life. I was doing something that made me feel like myself, or at least a hell of a lot like Tintin. Journalism is a profession for people


in love with life. People who enjoy adventure and who might be a little too nosey for their own good. It’s the profession of the sneaky and the cheeky and the mischievous. Certainly not for the faint-hearted.


S


ince I got my job at the Morning Star I have had more people crying on my shoulder than ever


before. People ask me what I write about and I usually tell them that I do all the “depressing topics” – unemployment, evictions and homelessness, deportations, poverty. And yet, I would’t have it any other way. Not because I relish other people’s misery, but because I get to tell the stories of people who otherwise would


not have their stories told. Some days it’s tough, when you meet Syrian refugees in Calais waiting to be allowed into Britain. Or when you meet young mothers in east London desperate after being made homeless on their due day. Or when you see disabled people cry as they say goodbye to state support which allowed to pay their carers and live an independent life.


E “ ”


Journalism is a profession for people in love with life. People who like people. People who enjoy adventure and who might be a little too nosey for their own good


very morning, while others have an extra 20 minutes snooze or a decent breakfast, I lay in


bed trailing social media in search of a story. One morning recently I found a Facebook status from many years ago, when I was in a job I hated, writing for all sorts of online websites in the hope of building something of a portfolio. How far gone it all feels today, and what a lesson to learn. “Never, never, never give up”, Sunday Times Magazine editor Eleanor Mills once told me. The world of journalism is a tough one. I was incredibly lucky. From the start I had the advantages of those privileged in our society – I am white, middle class, able bodied. And yet, I still had to count on a hefty dollop of perseverance and the tenacity not to give up. It paid off, I am finally a colleague of Mr Tintin.


The last Starting Out writer’s twitter handle was incorrect. It should have been @gemmasmith7667


@JoanaRamiroUK


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