Why You Should Care:
Lara Setrakian, named one of the Top Women of 2012 by Marie Claire Magazine, is a journalist and foreign correspondent with extensive experience in the Middle East.
Hailing from New Jersey and New York City, Setrakian graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in Government. She later received her MBA from Harvard Business School. After Harvard, Setrakian briefly worked as a business analyst with McKinsey & Company.
Setrakian left New York to move to the Middle East, where she covered regional conflicts in the Arab world and Iran. In 2008, Setrakian covered violent unrest in Lebanon and the oil price crises in Saudi Arabia. She was praised for her 2009 coverage of the Iranian presidential election.
Beginning in 2010, Setrakian was then hired by Bloomberg Television to cover the events of the Arab Spring. Setrakian notably interviewed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Setrakian recently founded Syria Deeply, an independent single-topic news site focusing on stories and commentary about the war in Syria.
Setrakian was recently named a 2012 Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum’s YGL group
I graduated from college and pretty much tore up the script. I had no idea where i was going to end up. I could have never predicted I would have gotten where I am.
My name is Lara Setrakian. I am the co-founder and executive editor of SyriaDeeply.org.
What I found was always very dedicated to covering the arab digital vanguard. That’s what I called it at first. These kind of young whipper snappers in their 20s who were finding ways to connect and communicate and I was very comfortable with that story.
I wish we had paid more attention to it because if you had none of this would have been a big surprise. We knew a week before Egypt’s revolution that something was brewing. They were telling us! So if you were listening closely to the people in their 20s, you would have figured out what was really going on.
So when I saw the Syria story happen, I had this feeling that we were going to fail the story, we weren’t going to adequately explain it. I could see the opportunity that technology would provide to basically hack that issue. And I felt really empowered because of what I had done in my 20s that I could pretty much figure out some recipe to create something worthwhile.
I think my whole 20s were a battle between my authentic self and my programmed self, the auto pilot. I had one notion in mind, oh i’ll meet someone nice in college, I’ll get married, I’ll do law school, I’ll have a conventional job. I burned that version of my life.
And then when I came across journalism and I understood the human connection, It kind of broke the autopilot, and I just found something that spoke to me just sort of beyond those external queues that you get. Overtime I could feel that this passion for journalism was overwhelming and that this was thing I really wanted.
You know, everything else, that sort of jd mbda and the corporate dreams, they weren’t my dreams, they were just the dreams I was swimming around.
I was given an incredible opportunity to be a digital reporter, a foreign correspondent for ABC news when I was 25 years old. They gave me a camera and a backpack, and they sent me out to iran and dubai and the rest of the middle east. that was my defining moment. this idea that you can do a lot with a little, and being digital, a digital native, was going to let you do incredible things on a shoestring was incredibly empowering.
There were a lot of turning points in my 20s. Each one of those decision points was like a battle in my brain. I was so afraid to fail and so afraid to show vulnerability and so afraid to take a wrong turn. People think its kind of crazy that I left my TV job to start a website.
When I look back on my 20s, the defining moments where I kind of realized I could make it on my own, I mean they were really random, and really powerful.
I remember being in Egypt during the revolution and a friend called me to say you know I don’t think the food trucks are going to get into Cairo I think your going to run out of food. So I started clearing out the mini bar everyday, and i just had a stash of snickers bars and pringles and whatever was in there. and every day they would refill it and every day I would clear it out again and just keep this stash, just like you know what, I’m going to survive, I’m going to figure this out, if I’m surviving off of snickers bars for the next two months that’ll be fine, but you know I’m going to build myself this little nest egg of junk food and I’ll be okay.
I’m kind of sad for my 20s. I wish I had had more fun, I wish I had worried less, I’m happy that I’m not feeling anxious anymore, and I don’t worry about approval anymore and I live my own life. I wish I had lived that way throughout my 20s, and when I meet people in their 20s I have the joy of telling them not to worry about anything.
Don’t think, trust yourself. You know more than you think. I wish someone had told me that. I wish I could redo my 20s with what I know in my 30s.
Cinematoography: Ian McAlpin
2nd Camera: Danielle Calodney
Edited by: Danielle Calodney
Interviewed by Laura Lehmann
Produced by: Batsheva Lazarus