Israel Campos (BA Journalism, 2022) – a field reporter made at City

Israel Campos
Credit: Andrade Lino

Israel Campos got the bug for writing, storytelling, and the media at the tender age of 12 while still in his native Angola. He has recently been appointed for two years to a think-tank run by the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the “Grupo de Reflexão O Futuro Já Começou”. He recounts his journey from radio broadcasting as a youth to his life in Portugal via studies at City, University of London.


Why do you think you were invited to join the “Grupo de Reflexão”?

To be honest, I was very surprised, almost shocked, when I first received the invitation, which I think was down to my track record in journalism and particularly my fight for press freedom in my home country Angola. My appointment was very timely as I had just moved to Portugal a few months before it, so I’ve become much more aware of the experiences Portuguese-speaking students from African countries, like myself, face on a daily basis, among other structural issues in the country.

What does the committee consist of?

It’s a wide-ranging group, with each member given a two-year mandate. We discuss a broad range of topics that matter to Portugal and its positioning in the world. I’m very interested in those concerning social justice, structural racism and Portugal’s approach to the African continent. It’s a very secure forum to share thoughts, which highlights the privilege of living in a democratic state with a President willing to listen to young people, regardless of their background and experiences.

What will you derive from this experience?

I believe this opportunity will give me the possibility of learning a lot, not only from His Excellency the President of the Republic, who is a cathedratic professor I greatly admire, but also from my peers who are outstanding young professionals in their fields. As the exchange and productive discussion of ideas is an important premise for democratic practice, I think this group will mark my journey in a memorable way, as a young person committed to advocating for causes with positive impacts on my community and globally.

What takeaways from City are you using within the committee?

City gave me a solid foundation when it comes to coexisting with different views and values and being able to listen to people I don’t necessarily agree with. Being part of a diverse student body at City has really helped me within the committee as it has broadened my perspective on how and why many, different and diverse opinions and stories matter.

What influenced your choice of university?

I wanted to go to London as that is where most media organisations are based. City really stood out due to the profile of its faculty. In the journalism department, you’ve got a lot of professors who have either been journalists for many years and now are in academia or others who are simultaneously in academia and still in the journalism industry. Apart from the theory, which is very important, City’s journalism program offered practical and technical insights that other universities wouldn’t. I had already been in the profession for a while but needed to upgrade my skills and City ticked all the right boxes.

Has the programme adapted to developments within the industry?

When I was first at City, I was immediately impressed by the technical facilities there. At City, we were treated not as mere students but rather as working journalists. We were being trained in the most up-to-date techniques, which is essential as there are always changes within the industry that require you to embrace new skills.  Whilst I was writing my dissertation, I secured an internship at the BBC; an experience which confirmed that what we had learned in class was going on in the industry itself. Studying at City is well-regarded within journalistic circles and no doubt helped me gain experience at BBC Africa and then the Africa and Brazil departments of the BBC World Service.

How would you define your career so far?

Quite unusual, because I’m only 23 years old and started working as a journalist when I was 12 on the Angolan National Radio. I was invited to present a children’s radio programme, and that was how it all started. It was then I realised how important public broadcasting service was to many people, particularly in very remote areas lacking the most vital things in life, such as a regular supply of food, electricity, and water. They were really grateful because you had just done a story or interviewed a guest who helped them understand more about health or about politics. That really highlighted the importance of journalism, especially in places like Angola where you still have a government that isn’t very media-friendly. Journalism is important because it tells stories, empowers people, and creates a human connection, even in the most difficult times.

How do you see your career evolving?

I want to write more articles. I don’t do radio any more actually, preferring to now concentrate on written stories. Multimedia goes hand in hand with writing, so that’s where I’m at now, in a position where I’m able to combine a lot of different but complementary skills, namely writing, filming, and editing.

What are the main challenges of the job?

One of the biggest challenges you face as an African freelancer is convincing Western editors of the importance of certain African stories. I’m based in Lisbon now, so I do a lot of in-the-field reporting, which is what I really love, being there and building the story live. Last year I covered the Angolan elections for the BBC, Voice of America (VOA), and the Wall Street Journal. Being on the ground, you feel that there’s a certain pigeonhole into which African stories are put. That creates certain expectations from editors, such that they are waiting for the same stories over and over again from Africa – poverty, corruption, crime etc. No-one is interested in running positive stories about the continent, and that is something I’m always motivated to change.

Did your time at City equip you to deal with that challenge?

I’d say that it partly did. Why? Because it had warned me that I might have encountered those challenges beforehand, as a black African journalist in the UK, so I wasn’t too shocked when it actually happened. I remember a course I took on Humanitarian Journalism run by a professor I’m still in touch with, Dr Lindsey Blumell. This course was fundamental for my training at City as it provided the adequate tools for me to better master issues like this as well as an important space for wide discussion on it and issues of that sort.