Q&A: BBC POP-UP With Benjamin Zand

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Courtesy of Benjamin Zand

Benjamin Zand, left, and Matt Danzico, right, in August of 2014 in Bushwick, NY on part of an 1,800 mile road trip.

The Daily Wildcat caught up with BBC’s Pop Up video journalist Benjamin Zand, 24, as he and BBC Bureau Chief Matt Danzico, wrap up a month long stay in Tucson. BBC Pop Up is the first mobile bureau filming personal stories and events within six American cities. Zand forgoes hotel accommodation, preferring to stay with host families as he creates community-centered documentaries. Liverpool born and Edinburgh Napier University journalism graduate, Zand taught a free journalism class at the University of Arizona School of Journalism Jan. 29.

Daily Wildcat: How did video journalism become your niche?

Zand: I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the beginning. That’s why I tried basically to do everything in the start — in the first year or so — and then I quickly realized it was all about the filmmaking. I’ve always made some form of videos. There are videos of me as a small child trying to report stories, so I always loved the visual side of storytelling and making beautiful films … I quickly realized I wanted more of an all-encompassing role, and video journalism allows that because you can film, edit, direct, produce, report ... You do everything. And that’s exactly what I wanted.

Daily Wildcat: When did you begin working at the BBC?

Zand: It’s difficult to answer that question because I’ve been doing work for them for a long time. The first ever work I did for the BBC was in Jan. 2011. I was a runner on a program called the BBC Big Questions. I worked for the science department … making science films. And then a production company for a while and then eventually the World Service … in London and I’ve been there ever since.

How did you and Matt Danzico (BBC Pop Up Bureau Chief) become involved in the BBC Pop Up project?

Zand: I was running the BBC World News Social Media ... and making films at the same time … Someone asked me to work on a video journalism unit and the editors of BBC World News… were kind of theorizing this mobile unit … me and Matt basically sat down on many occasions and just worked through how it would work and how it would be staffed … We started in Aug. 2014 and we’ve been going strong ever since. Next month is our last month of the first batch of BBC Pop Up but it looks like there will be many more to come, hopefully.

When did you realize you wanted to be a journalist?

Zand: I’ve always wanted to do journalism. I used to want to do astrophysics and realized I sucked big time at physics, so I very quickly changed that plan. I was reasonably good at writing and I originally thought I wanted to be a writer and I’d been writing a blog for a long time … I applied to do journalism … and luckily they accepted me. Journalism is such a beautiful profession. It is so broad and all-encompassing. You spend time researching about things other people don’t even think about, you get to see parts of the world people don’t think about — and you get to ask questions. That’s what I love about life, and that’s why I love journalism.

Is it true Liverpudlian’s aren’t often used in broadcast journalism?

Zand: Liverpool has a very distinct accent called “scouse.” … It’s a very strong accent. Very difficult to decipher it so [Liverpudlians] don’t often get put on the news. To be honest, there aren’t that many news reporters from Liverpool. So for me, as a Liverpudlian, it’s very satisfying each time I get to report a story … because it’s like a mini success for my peeps back in Liverpool.

What journalism lessons have you learned through trial-and-error?

Zand: To be relaxed. To be on time. It has to be relaxed to be an environment where people feel open to talk … and feel at ease to tell you what you hoped they’d tell you.

What is your advice for journalism students?

Zand: Whatever it is you want to do, you can with the advent of the Internet [and] the multimedia skills you have acquired through your mobile phone — and to get as much experience so you know what it is that you want to do.

Any words of warning for aspiring journalists?

Zand: Don’t do journalism if you’re not fully committed to it, because it is one of the most difficult professions. I probably sleep two hours a night. I spend the majority of my life thinking about journalism, I have to spend long nights working and I have to travel to crazy places and be uncomfortable the majority of the times. [It] is something I thrive upon. Just realize how difficult of a profession it is, figure out if you want to do [it] — then work very hard and start to doing it.


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