“I needed a job where I didn’t have to recreate myself, so I got back into journalism.”
Dan Kubiske’s voice flowed seamlessly through a small laptop. It sounded like he was calling from a house down the street from SPJ Headquarters. Instead, he was using Skype to call Indianapolis from Brazil. Kubiske, a freelancer, lives in Brasilia with his wife, and his journalistic pursuits keep his pen — and mind — moving, analyzing and reporting issues and events far and wide.
If you follow the SPJ Blogs Network, you’ll recognize Kubiske’s name from the International Journalism Committee blog, “Journalism and the World.” Kubiske is a member of the committee and contributes most often from his keyboard.
But journalism was not Kubiske’s first passion.
“I found politics a whole lot more fun (than journalism),” Kubiske said. “I got involved in a group that thought their leaders should know more about their world and was brought to D.C. to learn more about international affairs. I thought that was so cool.”
Kubiske was soon traveling worldwide to assist with international exchange programs for the U.S. Youth Council, a non-profit coalition that served young people in the U.S. but was disbanded in 1986. While Kubiske dove into international and labor affairs, government and politics, he began to build a foundation for his future as a journalist.
“[My early experiences] enable me to see connections that a lot of my colleagues don’t,” Kubiske said. “We wanted the future leaders of the American labor movement to that the world is changing, and they’ve got to pay attention to the rest of the world.”
Kubiske pays attention, and he pays the most attention to the connections that bind the global with the local. Encouraging journalists to find the local angle in international stories is a mission Kubiske fervently pursues. He condemns isolationism and encourages reporters to find links between, for example, Marysville, Ohio, and Japan. Marysville is Ground Zero for Honda in the U.S., so Kubiske asks, “Where are the stories about how the connection to Japan affects the community socially, economically and politically?
“Journalists in the U.S. need to understand that we are not an island and that local, local, local means you have to look at the international connections to the community,” Kubiske said.
At the 2001 SPJ Convention in Seattle, Kubiske brought U.S. journalists together with journalists in Hong Kong via satellite. He did so to show the two groups that they face similar issues. Kubiske enjoyed that teaching moment and has, appropriately, spent time as a professor for journalism college students. In the classroom, he continued to stress the importance of local and global connections.
“At George Mason (University), it was a regular part of every one of my classes — speech, news editing, journalism 101 — I always pushed students to look for the different and odd connections,” Kubiske said. “Students in the business have told me (that lesson) is now saving their jobs.”
Kubiske stresses that the only way you get noticed is if you do something extraordinary that draws the attention of your audience and your editor. He advises that finding the local angle in international stories is a way to do just that.
“It’s not just for us global geeks. The idea is we’re providing information that can be used at the local level if people just open up their eyes.”
Beyond having a different take on a story, Kubiske is confident that bringing global stories to the local scene can influence the rights and well-being of journalists all over the world. He encourages SPJ and its members to do the same and to speak out about international issues.
Activism, broader understanding of the world, a new take on a story — to Kubiske, all these are important components to being part of and creating a well-informed citizenry.
“Any democracy needs a strong independent journalism ethic that speaks truth to power, that digs up what governments don’t want us to know, digs up facts and information so that we can be active participants in our government,” Kubiske said. “I challenge journalists and the American public: Be inquisitive.”
Correction: The quote “ … journalism ethic that speaks truth to power …” is corrected from the version that appeared in the print magazine.