Being a mother and a crime/war freelance reporter means being teargassed by police officers in the middle of the Ferguson, Mo., protests while four months pregnant, or leaving behind your young son with his father to report on bombings in Israel. At least that is what it means for one SPJ member who has found professional and private fulfillment simultaneously, in the middle of dangerous situations.
Genevieve Belmaker may not have the years under her journalism belt, but experiences? Those she has. Now a regular freelance reporter for Epoch Times, IVOH (Images and Voices of Hope), Quill magazine and Poynter, Belmaker didn’t initially see journalism as part of her career path. She knew journalists, she even went on assignment with her father, a TV cameraman, as a young girl. But journalism didn’t cross her mind for herself. No, she was going to work in politics and law. Or so she thought.
Belmaker, who has written multiple cover stories for Quill (including under her maiden name, Genevieve Long), graduated from the University of Southern California, majoring in international relations with a minor in East Asian languages. She began working in government public relations and eventually landed a job in a law office. The office job was stable, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy her ambition.
Her day job paid the bills, but her night job as a freelance journalist satisfied her drive to do something more.
The birth of her first son, Negev, opened that door for her. She quit her day job and became a full-time wife, mom and crime/war freelance reporter only three short years ago. The combination of being a mom and crime/war reporter has been harmonious.
“It is helpful (being a mother) because you have to have a really deep sensitivity, in my opinion, to do crime reporting well, to understand what it means,” Belmaker said.
Most wouldn’t think crime reporting and motherhood would go well together, but Belmaker uses it to her advantage. She said that while suffering is often involved in crime, many times the suffering that needs to be reported isn’t about the actual crime. This is where her motherly instincts kick in.
Once she was called to the scene of a fire at a supposed hotel. It wasn’t a hotel, though. It was a homeless shelter for women and children. The fire was minor, but the story ended up being about the horrible conditions these women and children were having to put up with at this family shelter: mice droppings, cockroaches and the like. Without that fire, light wouldn’t have been shed on the situation.
“You have to have a lot of empathy and understand what people might be going through,” she said.
She knows how to approach the difficult situations she is put into safely and with empathy, but with enough aggression to get the job done. One of these situations happened while she and her family were living in Israel — her husband’s native country — for a year and a half. As sirens filled the air warning people of an incoming rocket threat, Belmaker had to make a split-second decision that few moms have to make: head toward the threat for the story or stay with her husband and 1-year-old son in the safety of a bomb shelter. She chose the former thanks to her husband’s support.
Gidon Belmaker, a former journalist who also works for Epoch Times as their social media manager, is Genevieve’s husband, but more importantly, her teammate. He encourages and supports her in her career path by being there for her emotionally and being a constant in their son’s life. Even when his wife, who is pregnant with their second baby, decided to travel to Ferguson to report on the protests, Gidon backed her 100 percent.
“I am happy to offer that support,” he said. “I think the world needs more of the courage and desire to get the story — the story that is behind the regular headlines — to really uncover what is happening. Even if I am not working as a journalist right now, the least I can do is help my wife be the best journalist she can.”
That’s exactly what Genevieve is trying to do: develop her skills as a journalist, be as great a mom and wife as possible, and fulfill the longing inside her to do something more.
“As journalists, we should be constantly cultivating our gut instinct, and crime reporting is the most useful for many, many things, including that,” she said.