Global Woman

Global woman.

Juliana Ruhfus
Part two

The world needs women of vision, women whose  mission is not just narrow nationalism, but to the benefit of people everywhere.    Juliana Ruhfus describes herself as a television journalist and broadcaster who specializes in investigations and current affairs.

“Journalists really need to globalize.   Crime globalized a long time ago, why shouldn’t we?”


The global reporter

Juliana in the field

Although born in Germany, Juliana  sees herself differently when talking about heritage.  I would absolutely 100% describe myself  as a Londoner, which means no nationality.   By now I’ve spent as much time in England as in Germany and I’ve lived at times in Africa.   The brilliant thing about London is that you can be all of that, because in London it all comes together.   When I travel, I struggle when people ask where are  you from?   I don’t really feel I can say Germany,  I haven’t lived there for 25 years, and yet I’m definitely not a Brit.


The global woman

A journalist who works across the world

Journalism could be compared to surfing, the way I’m looking at storytelling.   I go into a lot of unpredictable places and I research like crazy, so that I hope I understand the lay of the land and the people who are involved, people who may help me and may be against me.
But then I enter a situation which is very  often unpredictable, that  I have prepared for, but probably  half of what I’ve prepared doesn’t happen.   In a situation like that you are like a surfer waiting for a wave.   You don’t know what it is in that story that takes you.   Your entire training as a journalist is to  spot that wave and ride it as beautifully as you can. To control your position on  it, and get to the end with it.   But  what the wave is, where it comes and when, you don’t know know in advance.   The skill of the surfer is to improvise as best you can.

Path into journalism

I didn’t write little books at the age of 7.  I didn’t write journalistic articles, I didn’t do any of that.
My village is a tiny little speck on a map.  If you come from such a place you don’t allow yourself to dream to be a foreign correspondent.   It seemed  ridiculous to sit in a village like that and dream that you’ll travel the world, and live in a cosmopolitan city and do all these “ cool things”.   So don’t be intimated by thinking you’re not that good, not in that league.

My world opened up  when  was 14 or 15, I was  watching Fame the movie, and I was stuck in this little village,  the only one  doing A levels and there was bullying.  All I wanted to do was get out, when I saw this artists’ school in New York.   I just felt I wanted to be somewhere like that.   Then I ended up on the London club scene  a couple of years later.
Also a film about Salvador absolutely interested me. Two American journalists, discovered a massacre in Salvador.   I wanted an exciting life,   Maybe that’s why I loved Fame, everybody was portrayed as so ordinary.   They weren’t really special, so I thought if they can do it perhaps I can.


I think serendipity happens a lot, and maybe that goes back to waiting for the perfect wave.   A good journalist is really, really prepared.   You’re waiting, and chatting to the largest body of people keep your ears open, keep your eyes open. What comes might not be on my to do list, but that’s interesting I hadn’t thought about  that. Constant serendipity is what makes it interesting.

Role models

Lyse Doucet is  absolutely  formidable in her skill as a journalist, the places that she goes in her dignity, and the dignity she bestows upon any one that she interviews.   She does do dangerous stuff, but whether she’s in the studio as host, out on locations.   She’s just such a class A journalist.

Kevin Sims is a very well known British documentary director,  who wanted a producer for  the Tsunami documentary.    It felt as if I was in an apprenticeship.  Just being on the shoot.   He was the most amazing director I’ve ever worked with, just collaborating with him on the project was really formative and great.

Integrity and fairness, are important values to me.   If I negotiate access to interview somebody I  may not  like, I would always try to portray  them in the fairest possible way.   I might set out thinking I make a film about one thing.   If what I find in the field isn’t what I was expecting, I will change and justify it to my commissioning editor.  It just wasn’t what I found, we have  to change it.


Outside  of work I read about Buddhism, I do  a lot of yoga,
I find that trying not to be judgmental, goes back to being open minded, sorting yourself out, spring cleaning your  own mind.  Making yourself non-judgmental before you pass judgment on  others.   It’s just really helpful,  grounding.   A really important counterweight to work.

Pirate fishing in Sierra Leone

Most exciting is our new media project, where the user becomes the journalist and is taken into the process of evidence gathering. Then has to decide in a gameified way what is criminal evidence and what is back ground investigation.  I had  met a group of Italians  who  talked about interactive projects  on one of those long car journeys.

The actual process of gathering evidence as  Investigative journalists, unlike other Web Documentaries, may be that more exciting.   We worked on a project description between us, then I pitched it to Al Jazeera.   That idea came out of that long car ride, totally collaborative until the end.

Global corporations, Global crime.

The way I look at the world, is less countries and continents, than corporations.   It’s actually quite interesting at the moment.  We’re potentially entering an era, where the borders  of nation states are becoming less relevant because of corporate interest.  Trade and trade agreements, no longer look at borders, or boundaries  in the way they have.

Harvesting of organs the new commodity.

We’re trying to do the story of the organ transplant doctor in  Turkey,  who had a high degree of notoriety,  because he himself, said he had done  over 2000 transplants.  It is interesting to see how these organizations just move around jurisdictions.   The moment legislation gets tightened  they just move on.

It is interesting  to think about the uprisings, about Syriza. in Greece and Podemos in Spain, and more recently Pegida in Germany, against too many asylum-seekers and migrants.  This could be seen as a re-assertion of the nation state.

The general explanation for that, certainly the more intellectual one is that these  people are in their 40s to 50, mostly university educated. So they’re not complaining that migrants are stealing their jobs, it’s got to do with alienation.

Some people are warning, that  we are in pre world war II mode.   That technological progress has been so quick. that people have been left behind, and so they start going on the street or following simple solutions, that they understand, because they feel left out by the speed of the change.  Then start blaming that on “the other”.

The one thing I have learnt, if there is anything to make money off they will do it.  They will sell anything, they will sell  babies, they will steal your organs.

Global journalism

This is why journalists really need to globalize, because crime has been globalized a long time ago, and I think organizations like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists do really fantastic cross border work,and for exactly that reason.  They strike up collaborations with investigative journalists, in different countries.  Luxleaks was the  perfect example,  where all these documents were leaked from  Luxembourg about tax payers.  You have journalists collaborating,  in all  different  parts of the world.     Crime does this very well  why shouldn’t we?



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