Anisa Shabir aspired to become an investigative journalist but knew women in Pakistan faced numerous hurdles to pursue that career.
So, Shabir applied for the prestigious Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which placed her at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2022 to study investigative journalism as a graduate student.
She was awarded a Howard Center Fellowship, made possible thanks to the philanthropy of the Scripps Howard Fund, to support her work at the Cronkite School.
A year later, Shabir graduated with her master’s degree in investigative journalism from the Cronkite School and has returned to Pakistan ready to fulfill her goals of becoming a foreign correspondent and creating a more inclusive environment for female journalists in the country.
“I think impact is possible through journalism, through investigative journalism, holding the powerful to account and contributing to informed citizenry,” she said. “Cronkite has strengthened my belief that I can be a journalist who can hold the powerful to account.”
Shabir wants to report on the pressing issues affecting women, as well as religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan. She also wants to create a workshop to teach investigative journalism techniques to women who are not afforded the same opportunities that she received at Cronkite.
Shabir studied broadcast journalism as an undergraduate at Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University in Balochistan, a southwestern province of Pakistan, but didn’t feel prepared to report in-depth stories.
“The first step was to do journalism that would equip me with the skills that I would need to go into the field,” she said. “But in Balochistan, I don’t think there’s a degree program that would specifically equip you with the skill that you would need in the field, how to deal with security challenges, how to report effectively on stories that one needs to uncover.”
Her brother encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright program, which opened a path for her to study journalism in the U.S.
“The United States has the best journalism schools, so it was very natural for me to apply to Fulbright,” she said.
Once Shabir enrolled at the Cronkite School, she learned how to request and examine public records, conduct background checks, and use various tools and techniques such as Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) to unearth information. She worked on the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism’s “In the Sheriff We Trust” project, which familiarized her with the collaborative process necessary for completing investigative projects.
“There were moments in the newsroom when so much was happening around us, and things didn’t make sense. And that’s when my team and my editors would come and they would make me part of the process,” she said.
Now back in Pakistan, Shabir is taking time to reacclimate herself to some of the newsworthy issues in the country. She plans to work as a freelance journalist in the interim, but ultimately wants to get a job as a foreign correspondent for a large international news outlet.
Her experience at the Cronkite School provided her with the confidence to pursue those goals, she said.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go out in the field and speak comfortably with people. I wouldn’t have been able to believe that my dreams could come true as a journalist,” she said. “I think this has been a life-changing experience.”