2015 Daniel Pearl Intern: Ileana Najarro

Ileana Najarro

Ileana Najarro has been chosen as the 2015 Daniel Pearl Memorial Journalism Intern.

Najarro is a senior majoring in Communication. She will work in the Mexico City bureau of The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2015.

The internship was established to commemorate the work and ideals of Pearl, a Stanford graduate and Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

Najarro is from Los Angeles, California where she started her journalism career at small local papers. Last summer Najarro interned at the Washington Post as a Metro reporter. She is currently working on a senior honors thesis analyzing the resonance of cultural messages encoded in contemporary Mexican telenovelas.

A committee of Stanford Department of Communication faculty members evaluated applicants for the internship. The Wall Street Journal made the final decision.

Pearl, a 1985 graduate of the Department of Communication, was kidnapped in Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002, while working on a story retracing the steps of “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. A month later, on Feb. 21, his captors released a videotape of his slaying. He was 38.

Stories within Narratives

By Ileana Najarro

The narrative was about healthcare woes among poor residents and the growing mechanization of medical professionals. The story I wrote for The Washington Post was about a house-call doctor that served the needy living in the nation’s capital.

In another instance, the narrative was about governmental responsibility in disaster relief. The story I wrote was about a government official who, despite facing bureaucratic challenges, stuck to her personal philosophy of service to meet the needs of those repairing their lives after Hurricane Sandy.

Before reporting for the Post in Washington D.C. this past summer, I knew there was an abundance of political news that demanded coverage. There were facts that needed to be shared in order to sustain an educated democracy.

Yet while details on new bills, federal agencies’ frauds and election campaigns are important for a news organization to impart on its audience, I argue there are also universal narratives that demand coverage. These narratives, be they about facing adversity, helping neighbors, systemic gentrification etc., must be shared in order to sustain a human society full of values.

To tackle universal narratives, a journalist must find stories. Daniel Pearl knew how to find stories within narratives. Be it sharing the story of Serbians who were victims of ethnic cleansing, or the history of the songs pearl divers in the Persian Gulf sing, Pearl found individuals’ stories that weaved together narratives with which anyone anywhere in the world could relate. Most if not all cultures have valued pastimes, such as singing, that possess dark, mythical origins. Most if not everyone can relate to the feeling of homesickness, be it when one is away for summer camp or banished from their homeland.

I believe my role, as a journalist, is to break down complex and rich narratives into blocks of truthful stories that readers can then use to piece together their understanding of the world, to question their preconceptions and to serve as inspiration for action.

Many can agree that universal narratives of human society are important and need to be shared across generations. Yet without stories, many may not reach an understanding of these narratives’ value.

To feel for Dusan Dujic’s desire to die back in his Serbian homeland is to realize a shared connection we all have in longing for home. To be blown away by the awesome origins of the nahams’ songs is to realize the universal value of legends as crude explanations for worldly phenomena. To sympathize with a house-call doctor and a government worker’s mission of service is to realize the significance of the Golden Rule and how helping others can be a reward itself.

I hope that throughout my journalism career I am able to find stories within narratives in a way that honors and continues Pearl’s legacy of masterful human story telling that upholds the narratives that hold us all together.