2008 Daniel Pearl Intern: Jennifer Martinez

Jennifer Martinez
Jennifer Martinez

Jennifer Martinez is working toward a master’s degree in communication, specializing in journalism, after earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in international relations at Stanford in 2007. 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, a 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, Martinez described three Hurricane Katrina survivors whom she had written about and added, “Daniel Pearl understood that readers are better able to grasp the magnitude of international tragedies by weaving narratives of the people who experienced them into his writing.  In every facet of his reporting, Pearl strived to tell the stories of those who were overlooked and hidden in the shadows.”  

Martinez is from San Jose, and has had previous journalism internships at the San Jose Mercury News and the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau.

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.

Hidden in the Shadows

By Jennifer Martinez

When the levees broke in New Orleans two years ago, I watched the images of devastation and despair ravaging the city from the comfort of my living room in San Jose.  Like most Americans glued to their TV sets after Katrina hit, it was unfathomable for me to understand the undying hunger of families huddled for days on rooftops to escape the rising water, or the pain of Ninth Ward residents watching rotting bodies of family members floating by in the streets.
  
While the grotesque television images left an indelible mark on our country, I felt the media did a disservice to the citizens of New Orleans by truncating their painful stories into ten to fifteen second sound bites.  How could Americans comprehend the magnitude of Katrina’s wrath, I wondered, when the people who experienced it were silenced?

This past August, my editor at The San Jose Mercury News assigned me to cover a student march commemorating Hurricane Katrina’s two-year anniversary at San Jose State University. Many newspapers focused their coverage on President Bush’s visit with Mayor Ray Nagin in New Orleans on the day of Katrina’s anniversary. I endeavored to take a different approach.  Instead, my article focused on three female Katrina survivors I met at the march.   While their names and faces are unknown to the rest of the nation, these women provided a deeper perspective of Katrina’s lasting damage than any statistic or quote from a government official could.

Diane Evans, Sandra Wilson, and CC Rock-Campbell fled to the Bay Area to escape the devastation in their hometown after the levees broke.  The women shared their stories, each woven with pain and laced with anger, as we walked in the blaring heat through the San Jose State campus. Katrina is not over for these women.  The only financial assistance Sandra Wilson received is the $360 Red Cross voucher and $2,000 from FEMA given to her during the second week after Katrina hit.  Diane Evans slept on a mattress from Goodwill with her daughter in their unfurnished Burlingame apartment for five months.  Bay Area residents were unaware of their stories, and I felt that it was my responsibility as both a journalist and a human being to ensure that their struggles were finally given a voice and acknowledged by others.

Daniel Pearl understood that readers are better able to grasp the magnitude of international tragedies by weaving narratives of the people who experienced them into his writing.  In every facet of his reporting, Pearl strived to tell the stories of those who were overlooked and hidden in the shadows.  Narratives are a common thread in the opening of Pearl’s articles, from the tale of the house painter in the aftermath of Kosovo’s ethnic cleansing to the former hotel manager who escaped dying at the hands of the Croatian army because he was a Serb. Pearl understood that narratives transgress physical and cultural boundaries to connect readers with the affected, primarily because each of our lives is based upon a series of narratives.
  
Pearl knew that capturing the stories of others did not include waving a tape recorder in front of a source’s face to record a ten second sound bite.  It is evident in Pearl’s work that he fostered a relationship with each of his sources that hinged upon cultural sensitivity and an understanding of our inherent connection to one another as global citizens.
            
What ultimately draws me to the journalism profession is that reporters like Pearl have the ability to inspire and empower the public every day through words and descriptions.  I would be honored to continue Pearl’s tradition of spurring global change at The Wall Street Journal.