Shibani Gokhale is a video journalist based in Canada. She primarily works for Yahoo! News Canada and is also a video contributor at The Quint. She recently launched her own show ‘Broken Down’, which highlights and digs into important news stories of a legal and political nature which are not covered by the mainstream media. She has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, NY and a law degree from ILS, India. She has also worked at ATTN: in Los Angeles and Brut. in India.
How did you decide to get into journalism and what prompted you to change gears?
Shibani: I decided I was going to be a journalist when I was 16. I chanced upon Indian journalist and activist Pinki Virani’s book about child sexual abuse in India, ‘Bitter Chocolate’, and it changed my life. Her book played a huge part in the passing of India's first child sexual abuse legislation in 2005. I knew in that moment that I was going to spend the rest of my life trying to do what she did. But life is complicated and it gets in the way. While I applied to journalism schools in Canada for my undergrad, my grandmother in India was diagnosed with cancer. I chose to live with her. I didn't feel comfortable studying journalism in India so I chose law and I chose ILS because it was literally 10 mins away from my grandma's house. These are decisions I do not regret for a minute- one, because I got to spend valuable time with my grandma during her final years and two, because I fell in love with the law. It gave me access to my passion for social justice. I interned at human rights organisations, participated in moot court competitions and overall had a wonderful time. But somewhere around fourth year, I was drawn back to journalism. And watching several powerful female journalists such as Christiane Amanpour, Ashleigh Banfield, and Ann Curry striving to make a difference in the world, further reinforced my aspirations to pursue journalism in the United States. I applied to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and surprisingly got in! After graduation I interned at the New York Law Journal before accepting a full time position as a digital journalist at ATTN: in Los Angeles. After producing over 120 videos and garnering over 250 million views for all them combined, I went on to work at Brut. Inc to help develop their India page. I’m currently working as an online video journalist at Yahoo! News Canada from Vancouver. I’m also a video contributor at The Quint. I host, produce and edit videos concerning North American news for The Quint’s Indian audience. I have also launched my own news show ‘Broken Down’ where I highlight and dig into stories not covered by the mainstream media in North America and India.
How would you compare legal practice with journalism?
Shibani: I changed gears right at the end of law school, so I never really had a chance to practice law. But I believe the skills needed to be a successful lawyer are similar to those needed to be a successful journalist. Writing, drafting, researching and public speaking being the first that come to mind. The difference I think is as a lawyer you're committed to your client but as a journalist you're committed to the truth and nothing but the truth.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Shibani: I am an inherently curious person and journalism lets me pick a new topic to be curious about (and get paid for it) every single day. I love the freedom and flexibility I have in reporting on issues pertaining to three countries- India, America, and Canada. Amy Goodman said, “Going to where the silence is, that is the responsibility of a journalist.” I love being a voice for the silent. I love shedding light on issues that the general population is not even aware of. I genuinely enjoy making my videos. I enjoy the process of pitching, scripting, hosting, filming and editing. I'm a political-legal journalist so my hope is for my work to have such impact, that legislators will be forced to pass a law to try and solve the issue. For instance, I have lately been reporting on racism against Black people in India and believe that India needs a robust anti-racism law. Same goes for marital rape in India and gun control in America.
What advice would you give to young women lawyers aspiring to have a journey similar to yours?
Shibani: Start creating content. Write a blog, start a podcast, create a video series but make original content. Even if you're not interested in journalism as a full time profession, it's a great side hustle. Technology and social media has made self publishing so easy. Be accurate, be honest, put in the research and just create. If you're interested in switching to journalism full time, I do recommend getting a graduate education in journalism. Although you don't need a degree to be a journalist, there's no doubt that it helps take you where you need to go. And don't worry about switching careers or about having wasted your years at law school or as a lawyer. Your legal education will your biggest asset as a journalist. India and America both are at a media crossroads. We need good and honest journalists now more than ever.