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Ankita M. Kumar

Ankita M. Kumar (MSJ22)

Freelance Journalist


Tell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today?

I started my career in the media industry by accident – in my senior year I received an offer from a broadcast company to make TV soaps. I really enjoyed the stint and it made me realize my passion lay in the media business, but on the news side. I switched to digital media in 2015, when it was in a relatively nascent phase in India. I worked in several startups before getting my big break in the Economist Group’s research division – the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). I worked as a business reporter for a few years on a B2B news wire product. In 2020, right before the pandemic hit the world, I joined Deutsche Welle (DW), a German broadcaster, as an online news correspondent. This stint was special for me, because it was my first opportunity to go on the field as a reporter. I covered several stories on the COVID-19 pandemic in India and featured on DW’s TV shows as well. In 2021, I decided to make a big move to the US, due to some personal reasons, and came to Medill to pursue a grad program in journalism. It’s been a tough journey since then to start off in a new country, but I am enjoying this opportunity to finally take my reporting global.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

In 2022, I received a post-graduate reporting fellowship from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Under the fellowship, I had to make a documentary on Afghan refugees in India. So I went to India, shot the documentary with my team, directed it, interviewed subjects and then supervised editing of the film. I was also responsible for fundraising for the film. I also wrote an article on the same topic which received an award from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents this year.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career?

My Medill training has helped me immensely in my career. It’s opened up a plethora of opportunities and given me access to a major network of journalists in almost every medium out there – audio, video, digital – you name it. I particularly benefited from the design thinking and Knight Lab classes in my specialization, as it prepared me for journalism-adjacent roles such as news product management. I also learned video journalism at Medill and it helped me branch into film making! I will always be grateful to my professor, Brent Huffman, for making me realize that I can branch out into video and do a good job at it.

How has the Northwestern Medill network helped you advance in your career?

The Medill ‘mafia’ as we call it, has had my back through the good and bad times. Every newsroom in the country has a Medill alum and they have had my back – be it with giving job leads or listening to my rants about the struggles in journalism! The network helped me break into journalism organizations like the AAJA and SPJ and I am now a regional coordinator in the SPJ! I also did some of my best work with Medill alums. Justin Kerr gave me an opportunity to report on the local community for McKinley Park News and Linton Johnson gave me an opportunity to work on his amazing product, Ovis News. I am so glad that I got a chance to do a degree from Medill and meet these great people (and make the best friends!)

How can your industry be more inclusive and representative of society?

Journalism is going through an identity crisis right now and newsrooms are questioning if diversity requirements are being met. I would love for the industry to continue questioning its choices, so that more people can get a voice. Currently, a lot of opportunities are concentrated in the hands of a few, and we have to change that. That can only happen if we allow people of more diverse backgrounds an opportunity to raise their voice. Which is why I am grateful for fellowships like the one offered by the Pulitzer Center, as it gave me a chance to tell my story to the world – and be recognized for it. The industry also needs more thinkers who will be disruptive with their thinking about journalism. We should embrace change by allowing these thinkers and entrepreneurs to thrive.

How have your identities influenced the way you navigate your professional career?

Oh yes, absolutely. Not a single day goes by when I don’t remember where I came from or why I am doing what I am doing. It’s not easy to be a journalist in a family that has never even imagined setting up base outside the home country. My grandparents were refugees to India and they never got a chance to realize their dreams or complete their education. My parents made sure my brother and I got those opportunities and break that generational curse. I am a proud bisexual woman and I believe these identities make me a more conscientious journalist. I am always inclusive of the opinions of others and I try to create change wherever I go. For example, I am now trying to set up a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, because it is important to have Pacific islander and Indigenous voices in journalism. I am always eager to include people of different backgrounds in journalism, because I believe our differences help us tell underreported stories. It makes us see life with a different lens and I love to celebrate that. I am only here because someone out there believed in me. So now, I want to give back.

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill?

Medill’s program equips you for a career in any field you want. This place is special because the people here will believe in you and push you to become the best version of yourself. I don’t regret coming to Medill at all – in fact, I always wonder why it took me so long to get here!