Students work overseas for English-language news outlets

Children play at a school in the rural town of Suong. Photo courtesy Kristin Okinaka

Children play at a school in the rural town of Suong. Photo courtesy Kristin Okinaka


Okinaka and friend/coworker Bopha at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy Kristin Okinaka.

Okinaka and friend/coworker Bopha at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy Kristin Okinaka.

Sizzling meat on the street-side grills and zooming motorbikes that stop for no pedestrian are just a few of the many sounds in Phnom Penh. I ride on the back of a moto to the Cambodia Daily‘s office every Sunday through Thursday passing by these food vendors, the sweet smell of plumeria on Russian Boulevard, and busy streets full of lots of people.

I knew that my 10-week reporting internship at an English language newspaper in Cambodia would be full of meeting new people, writing stories about unfamiliar topics, and learning about myself. This has been the case, as I have had to interview government officials that hang up on me, talked to NGO (non-governmental organization) workers, and have taken a trip outside the city to a rural town, Suong, where I met many friendly high school students who wanted to know everything about Seattle.

Being a reporter here is different from being one back home. Although the government says there is a free press in Cambodia, this is not entirely true from a western viewpoint. There are currently many incidents where government officials are charging defamation or disinformation against editors and reporters because even though these individuals are reporting the truth, it does not reflect favorably on the government. Hopefully with time, this will change.

I am very grateful to have this opportunity to be thrown into a new culture and continue to learn about it on a daily basis. I have covered a range of stories from the government’s policy on the indigenous people to the first solar- and electric-powered car produced in Cambodia. The Khmer people are very friendly and it is unbelievable that this country went through the genocide led by Pol Pot only 30 years ago. Typically they do not want to talk about the past and instead are looking to the future. I am not sure what my future will hold when I am back in the States but I will definitely have many stories and photos of the people I have met and the places I have seen that I will want to share.

A total of four UW Communication students are working this year for overseas English-language news outlets. Besides Kristin in Cambodia:

  • Judy Vue worked in Sierra Leone for Awoko Newspaper.
  • Madelyn Fairbanks worked for Reuters News Service in Lima, Peru.
  • Chantal Anderson starts fall quarter in Beijing as a reporter for The China Daily.