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Interview with SBS News Senior Journalist Rashida Yosufzai

01 September, 2022

Rashida Yosufzai is a senior journalist at SBS News. Rashida began her media career in 2007 after graduating from UTS Sydney, and has since covered everything from finance news and federal politics to horse racing. Rashida Yosufzai-2

Can you tell me a bit about your current work at SBS as a Cross Platform Reporter?

“For SBS World News' TV bulletin, I cover national and international news, so all the major world and local headlines of the day, and for SBS News Digital I do a mix of domestic and international headlines. And the same thing for radio. Whether it be the latest mass shooting in the US, or natural disaster at home, we cover basically the biggest news of the day overseas or at home.

“I'm also a mum of three, so that's another part of my life." 

You were born in Afghanistan and have also spent some time reporting on news from Afghanistan — could you please share a little bit about this experience? 

“I was born in Afghanistan and my family came here as refugees in the 90s. That really helped in reporting last year during the Taliban takeover, because I had the language experience and also the networks and contacts.

“It was quite difficult because our borders were closed and there were no Australian journalists who were allowed to travel to Afghanistan. In lockdown … we were basically reporting on this crisis and the Afghan government's downfall as the Taliban took over from our lounge rooms in Australia. My background helped in trying to get those really crucial stories to Australian audiences without actually being able to report on the ground. 

“We covered most angles given those very challenging circumstances. We spoke to vulnerable people on the ground, from Australians stuck in Afghanistan trying to get out, to the former interpreters who worked for the Australian Defence Force in fear of their lives because they were at risk of persecution at the hands of the incoming Taliban government, to people who worked for the Afghan government who were trying to get out in not dissimilar circumstances to my own father in the 90s who had to flee because of his work for the government.”

I'm sure it added extra nuance to your reporting but also extra challenges, having that personal connection? 

“That was a quite personally devastating thing to happen because my own family members were caught up in this disaster. My uncles are still in Afghanistan, my cousins are basically stuck at home, forbidden from going to school, their futures have basically been ripped from underneath them because they're girls. 

“I had family members flee on those evacuation flights as well, so it was a pretty harrowing, difficult time, because here I was as a reporter covering all of these things happening at arms length level, talking to complete strangers who were basically in the same situation as my own family members. 

“For example I'm not sure if you remember those really horrific and devastating scenes of people falling off planes taking off in Afghanistan — when those images broke I had found out that my own uncle was in that airport hoping to try to get on one of these evacuation flights, because the situation was so desperate.  We did the best that we could in trying to bring justice in telling these awfully sad stories.”

It must be hard as well for journalists like you reporting on these situations which are still ongoing, but the news cycle so quickly moves on to the next disaster?

“That's the thing, even though the world's eyes, the attention, has moved on, the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. And I understand that there's a level of Afghanistan fatigue, because you hear almost every week, every day, some other tragedy, like recently the earthquake in Paktika Province. In some ways we're tuning out, but that doesn't mean that what's happening in Afghanistan does not deserve to be told. 

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What are you looking for in a story pitch or press release? 

“My biggest advice to PR representatives or communications professionals who are trying to pitch to newsrooms is be thoroughly prepared and know who you're pitching to. Research the media outlet and how they operate. If you're pitching a television story, have things like case studies, experts and spokespeople ready to appear on camera. Vision to film as well - an event or something that's associated with the pitch or news item.  

“If there is a news item that you want to 'sell', make it as simple as possible with the headline in the press release because newsrooms are inundated with pitches everyday, so you're competing for attention. Also think about who you want to pitch it to, because there are different types of media organisations with different audiences. Really research the media outlet that you want to pitch to in order to make that as succinct and accessible as possible to news editors.”

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