2006 Daniel Pearl Intern: Camille J. Ricketts

Camille Ricketts
Camille Ricketts

A Stanford Daily editor majoring in history has been chosen as the 2006 Daniel Pearl Memorial Journalism Intern.

Camille J. Ricketts is a senior who is minoring in creative writing. She will work in the London bureau of the Wall Street Journal this summer.

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

In an essay written as part of the application process, Ricketts described her affinity for Pearl’s work. “Daniel Pearl made it his mission to give many who were lost or unnoticed a recognizable face and a louder voice,” she wrote. “Like Pearl, I strive to capture people’s idiosyncrasies, while never losing site of their commonalities.”

Ricketts has been editor-in-chief of the Stanford Daily during the fall and winter. She has had previous journalism internships at the Knight Ridder Washington bureau, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Stanford magazine, and the Menlo Park Almanac. She is from Fremont, California.

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

Pearl, a 1985 graduate of Stanford’s Department of Communication, was kidnapped in Karachi on January 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.

Capturing Idiosyncracies, Remembering Commonalities

By Camille Ricketts

It’s delicate business, talking to defeated politicians about loss. My assignment had started out as a basic “where are they now?” piece about former statesmen, long-since retired to their home-state golf courses. What it turned into, however, struck a slightly more sensitive nerve. I wanted to know-how do politicians cope with loss after decades of victory? How do they feel returning to often hastily-paused past lives out of the spotlight? In the course interviewing sources ranging from freshly-beaten Congressman Bob Inglis to former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, two things became clear. First, these were not the types of questions my sources were used to fielding. And second-perhaps most surprisingly-they relished the opportunity to speak candidly on the subject, even on a deeply personal level.

My favorite part of reporting has always been the moment during an interview when a source breaks from formality and starts speaking freely. It was in these moments of transition between stock quotes and casual anecdotes that these politicians became real people with families, financial concerns, and insecurities about picking up where they left off. It was when former Speaker of the House James Wright told me that losing saved his life-allowing him the time to detect and recover from cancer-that I realized the universal quality of the stories I was collecting. I knew that the heart of my piece would lie in my ability to bring out a human dimension in the everyday experiences of a class of people routinely dehumanized by the media, if not forgotten entirely.

Daniel Pearl made it his mission to give many who were lost or unnoticed a recognizable face and a louder voice. In doing so, he tapped into the poignant aspects of international news stories and made the most esoteric topics relevant, colorful and real. Through his writing, he very carefully and deliberately linked his readers and his subjects. In this spirit, he chose to start an article on the war in Kosovo from the perspective of a Trepca house painter, a bystander suddenly caught in extraordinary circumstances. Similarly, his article on the darker side of Qatari pearl-diving culture explored an easily overlooked niche of humanity, highlighting personalities while at the same time detailing central values of Gulf society that are both extremely similar to and different from those of the United States. I admire Pearl’s talent for weaving together the subtle stories of individuals to comment on broader issues and undercurrents.

In my short career as a journalist, I have been most drawn to stories that depend heavily on the personalities of the people involved. My objective is always to present them as whole, and as distinctive as possible. Like Pearl, I strive to capture people’s idiosyncrasies, while never losing sight of their commonalities. An article I wrote on a family of airmen for a small-town weekly quietly illuminated the struggle of soldiers living in communities that are vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq. A year later I found myself at a Maryland highway rest-stop asking drivers passing through about the yellow magnetic “Support the Troops” ribbons stuck proudly to (or significantly missing from) their fenders; the casual and impromptu interviews provided great insight into the impressive cultural and political diversity that exists within this country. If given the opportunity, I would feel privileged to follow Pearl’s lead and continue in this direction at the Wall Street Journal.