Two University of Rhode Island graduates gave presentations about their experiences in international and conflict reporting last night in the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

Mark Scialla, ‘13, and Reshad Kulenovic, ‘04, spoke at URI as part of the Christiane Amanpour lecture in international journalism. Both Scialla and Kulenovic both rely heavily on film and other multimedia to produce their stories, and have worked in several locations across the globe. Each presenter showed clips of their own work to show their accomplishments.

Scalia works as a producer for RT America’s evening news in Washington D.C., but has also done extensive work overseas as a freelance reporter in Asia. He started with an internship at Al Jazeera America, who later hired him.

To begin his presentation, Scialla, a journalism and environmental and natural resource economics major, reminisced about his experience listening to other journalists speak at URI, and wondered how he could get to where they are. Initially, Scialla thought that reporters started at entry level journalism positions and worked their way up, but he said his persistence was what got him to where he is today.

“It wasn’t for me,” Scialla said. “[I’m] curious, and wanted to go out and see the world.” He also added that “in journalism, there’s no real career path to your goals,” meaning that in other fields, like doctors or lawyers, it’s more of a step-by-step pathway to being well established in your career. Scialla wanted to go straight to international reporting, and so he did.

Scialla interned with Al Jazeera, an American-based international news service, where he eventually ended up working. But, “it wasn’t really scratching that itch,” Scialla said. He eventually went to southeast Asia, where he started freelance reporting.  

“[I had] no idea what I was getting into, with no prior experience,” he said. “I didn’t know how to use my camera, and didn’t speak any particular language. [I was] an average student, just overly curious.”

After a rough start in Vietnam covering illegal wildlife trade in January of 2015, he worked in Nepal and covered their massive earthquake in April that same year.

Later that year, he began working in the Philippines, where he reported on violence against local journalists through film, which he showed clips of during his presentation. Distributed by Al Jazeera, the film captured the lives of Filipino journalists who are arming themselves to go to work every day. They face threats from the government and other powerful families that don’t want reporters talking about it, he said.   

 Similarly to Scialla, Kulenovic centers his work around conflict zones around the world. His background is rooted in filmmaking rather than journalism, however, he said that “journalism can be a tool for empathy.”

That was his goal in “100 Million Dollar House”, one of his most recent documentaries. It focuses on a family home in Hebron, a hotspot in the longtime conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The film discusses the tensions felt by Palestinians living in Hebron and the Israeli soldiers who occupy the area. Kulenovic showed several different clips from the documentary, highlighting exchanges between both sides.

Kulenovic said that Hebron is a microcosm of the overarching conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s a “place that most people in that country are unaware of what it’s like due to high level of violence and isolation,” he said.

He felt it was important for both sides to understand each other, and even enhanced this notion in his choice to have a mixed crew of both Palestinians and Israelis. In one of the clips, Kulenovic showed an Israeli soldier who talked about his experience serving in the Israeli military. He became “numb, you don’t care about them anymore,” he said. “In a way they’re not human beings, just another thing in your job.”

Kulenovic related the situation to the United States and the refugee crisis in Syria. He said that if more people really saw these people for who they really are, actual people, instead of snippets of intense conflict that’s shown on the news, people would realize that “they are human beings that are complex, that are like us.”

To close, Kulenovic said that one of his concerns is whether or not people care about the topics he covers.

“You worry do people care, do they care about Syria, Rwanda, Palestine, Israel, or are you speaking into the void?” Kulenoic questioned. “But the presence here gives me answer. Thank you.”


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Emma Gauthier
Emma is a senior journalism and English double major with a minor in political science from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She has worked for the Cigar since her first semester at URI as a staff reporter, then web editor, news editor and finally Editor in Chief. Emma also edits for the URI research magazine, Momentum, and hopes to find a career in political reporting upon her graduation in May.