Erica Gillette ’04
A Global View of the News
by Ann Pauley
Erica Gillette is in command of five computer monitors on her cramped desk. She assembles news clips from a reporter in Uruguay. She schedules the download of a news segment from London to be broadcast from Washington, then queues it up for use at the network’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar. She contacts Reuters for footage of President Bush’s trip to Mexico. And that’s just the first hour of her day.
As the media coordinator for the Washington bureau of the television network Al Jazeera English, Gillette juggles deadlines and time zones for the world’s first English language news channel headquartered in the Middle East. When Al Jazeera English was launched in November 2006, the network expected to reach 40 million households worldwide; it now reaches 80 million homes. The network is one of the three biggest global English language 24 hour news channels, along with BBC World and CNN International.
The network is not without its detractors. Currently, no U.S. cable company broadcasts the network, and critics are cautious about a network that is connected to the Arabic Al Jazeera. Others believe that the network offers a global perspective of the world not found in the U.S. and European dominated media.
‘I am very proud of what we do here,’ says Gillette, who graduated from Trinity in 2004 with a major in communication. ‘We are reporting on countries that you don’t always hear about. We have reporters in [Sudan] Darfur, Uruguay, Columbia and Argentina, who are interviewing real people who are in danger, who are struggling to survive.’
For Gillette, Al Jazeera’s approach to the world is consistent with her own global view: ‘I am concerned about people who are oppressed and repressed, and I am disappointed in the fairness and accuracy of most media. At Al Jazeera English, we care about the views of those who are at the lowest economic levels and we shine a light on how policies and global trends will affect them.’
Gillette credits Trinity faculty for shaping her global view and helping her understand how discrimination and repression affect large groups of people worldwide. She was particularly inspired by Dr. Minerva San Juan, who teaches philosophy, and Dr. Jamey Piland, who teaches communication. ‘They really opened my eyes.’
‘Trinity faculty encouraged me to be successful academically and to set ambitious goals,’ notes Gillette. Right out of high school, she had a ‘false start’ at another university, and then worked full-time in retail and other jobs. A friend suggested that she look at Trinity, and she enrolled in the School of Professional Studies, continuing to work full-time and taking a full load of courses. After she graduated, she earned a master’s degree from the University of Miami in the television broadcasting journalism program. She was just one of 14 admitted to the very competitive and selective program.
Gillette sharpened her production skills through internships, then worked at Al Hurra television. When she saw the opportunity to be part of a brand new network, she made the move to Al Jazeera. ‘Everything here is done in high definition television. We use cutting-edge technology. I am working with some of the most advanced production tools in the business.’
As focused as she is on her career and the demands of her responsibilities at Al Jazeera English, Gillette’s real focus is her one-year old daughter, Tsitisi. ‘She is such a guiding force for me,’ says Gillette. ‘In many ways, I feel like my contributions at Al Jazeera are about making the world a better and fairer place for her.’
On that note, Gillette turns back to her monitors. She’s gearing up for one of two daily news broadcasts from the Washington bureau. ‘This is exciting, important work,’ she says proudly.