On the Fourth Estate's Frontline
Alice Li ('10) is a dual Emmy Award-winning video journalist at The Washington Post who discovered her passion behind the lens while studying film at ISB.
Since joining The Washington Post as a video journalist in 2014, Alice Li has developed a reporting repertoire as diverse as her storytelling skills.
She has covered the political rise of US President Donald Trump, luxury private jets, star-studded galas, prisoners' rehabilitation, and modern medical training. The style of her reporting is equally versatile, spanning articles, photos, videos, and even Snapchat montages.
In June 2016, Alice won two Emmy Awards for her reports on police shootings and the heroin epidemic. The latter story was part of a yearlong series during which Alice explored the story of a young Maine man who had fatally overdosed.
- "For me, the most important thing to remember is that I'm just there to listen. You do these stories where you parachute into other people's lives and ask a lot from them, and I think sometimes you need to find that line between asking too much of somebody and knowing when to pull back," she said.
One of the biggest challenges of her work is fulfilling multiple roles as an interviewer and multimedia specialist.
- "In the moment, you're focusing on what people are saying along with whether your shot is framed correctly and if audio levels are OK. There are so many things going through your head at the time," she said.
Alice knew she wanted to pursue journalism after graduating from ISB. When she was accepted into Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, her sights were firmly set on magazine writing.
A turning point came during her sophomore year, when Alice produce an audio slideshow about an abandoned hospital in Chicago's northern Ravenswood neighborhood. It was there that she interviewed two middle school boys scrawling graffiti on the side of the derelict building.
Her project earned high praise from one of her professors at the time, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Brent Huffman.
- "He asked if I wanted to turn it into a mini documentary. At the time, I thought that was crazy. I had obviously taken Mr. O'Reilly's film class (at ISB), but it had never occurred to me to combine film and journalism," she said.
Internships followed at television documentary production companies in Chicago, Johannesburg, and San Francisco, before Alice switched to news at The Washington Post.
- "My internship [at The Post] was difficult, but it helped me become a much faster shooter and editor," she said.
- "One advantage of video is that it's something that's still quite new, so it's easier for young people to get their foot in the door at organizations like The Washington Post," she added.
Last year's US presidential election took her out of her comfort zone as a journalist. Many voters, already distrustful of the media, were emboldened by buzzwords like "alternative facts" and "fake news."
The political frenzy and rapid pace of shooting and editing was "crazy to say the least," said Alice.
- "The overall experience was eye-opening. There were times where you as a reporter would be tempted to predict the future, but that's not part of the job," she added.
Under the Trump Administration, journalism has faced growing constraints due to restricted access to key officials and public distrust in some sectors of the mainstream media.
For Alice, these challenges underscore the importance of her profession and the need to keep people informed through truthful, objective reporting.
- "The election demonstrated there were many people who did not believe the facts. Social media has made it so easy now to live in your own bubble of whatever news you want to receive. The role of journalism feels very vital now. I also think we need to be careful not to fall into the same traps we have over the past year," she said.