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Jacob Resneck left the Adirondacks to report in Alaska, central Asia and the Near East. Photo: Jacob Resneck
Jacob Resneck left the Adirondacks to report in Alaska, central Asia and the Near East. Photo: Jacob Resneck

From North Country reporter to foreign correspondent

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Jacob Resneck was one of the most recognized faces in North Country journalism, covering stories for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and North Country Public Radio.

But Resneck loved foreign travel and in 2009 he reinvented himself as a foreign correspondent. In the years since, he's covered some of the most high profile conflicts in the world, from the turmoil in Georgia to the civil war in Syria.

Resneck spoke recently with Adirondack bureau chief Brian Mann about his travels and where his reporting will take him next.

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When I first left the North Country in the beginning of 2009, my idea was to go to South Asia to go to India and be a writer and copyeditor. So I was heading that way but I ended up landing in the Caucasus right when Georgia was in the middle of this political crisis, less than a year after the war with Russia over South Ossetia in 2008, and all of the political opposition had decided to unite and try to force the president out of office.

A lot of the time I'm doing a story, and I'll look down and I'm wearing the same dirty Carhartt jacket [it] reminds me a lot of when I was in Fort Covington or something like that.
And so literally you had hundreds and sometimes thousands of people camped out in front of the presidential palace and the parliament building and they'd shut down the streets. And it was very peaceful, but it was also a very charged atmosphere. So it was kind of a perfect place for a relatively inexperienced foreign journalist to do some reporting, because no one was getting hurt, so I was relatively safe, yet it was also very interesting.

So I started doing reporting, and I  was expecting to stay in Georgia for maybe a week or two, and I think I ended up staying there for more than three months.

Did you feel like you were making it up as you went along, kind of learning your foreign journalism chops…or after your experience in the North Country did you feel like you were sort of doing stuff that translated well from your experience here?

I'd had a lot of traveling experience before, so the new cultures wasn't so new to me, but I got the technical skills, the journalism skills, that's what I got honed in the North Country. And a lot of those stories are very similar, wherever I've gone you encounter rural poverty, resource economies in transition, the flight of young people from villages.

A lot of the time I'm doing a story, and I'll look down and I'm wearing the same dirty Carhartt jacket and I'm thinking you know actually, this reminds me a lot of when I was in Fort Covington or something like that.

 In the years since, I know you've based in Turkey but you've covered other conflicts, including the conflict in Syria, you've been there along the border.  This seems to be something that often happens to foreign correspondents, that they end up reporting on…moments of upheaval. Is that a big part of your bread and butter now, or do you also file stories that are about more "daily life" kinds of things?

Resneck's reports often capture the human elements of life in fast-changing parts of the world. Photo: Mari Rosti
Resneck's reports often capture the human elements of life in fast-changing parts of the world. Photo: Mari Rosti
I've done both, the Syrian situation is really horrific, on every level really, and I haven't been back inside the country since the civil war…but I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are also freelancers who are taking incredible risks and going inside the country. And what's happening is this, most news organizations don't want to have the responsibility of sending their correspondents inside the country, because it is so dangerous, not just being hit by an artillery shell, but there's kidnapping, gangs and all kinds of criminal elements operating there. So I've personally stayed out of Syria because I'm one of those people who don’t have health insurance, I don't have any one to back me up, to go in and look for me, although I've been invited several times by Syrian friends, at this point it just seems like there's so much risk.

Of late you've been based in Turkey. Where do you see your career taking you next, what's next in your plan and what kind of news organizations will you be working for in the future?

It's really good being  based in Istanbul because it…runs along a lot of the major fault lines of cultures, of past empires and future conflicts, whether it's the Caucasus, the Balkans, Russia, Europe, and the Middle East.

My plan now is actually that I'm going to be joining some friends who are doing a road trip through western Africa. And I’m planning on spending about three or four months…I'm working a lot in radio, and I like to do cultural stories that can also tell a larger political stories, and so there are some music festivals in southern Mali, and Mali's been split by a civil war. So I'm going to try to go to this music festival…I'm a huge fan of Malian music, but also tell the story of this country that's being wracked apart by all kinds of internal divisions.

But my plan is to be back in Istanbul for the late spring, early summer, because that's really a good place for a freelancer like myself to be able to scratch out a living. 

To hear some samples of Jacob Resnick's work, listen to this interview by clicking the link above.

 

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