Meet the OPC Members: Q&A With Benedetta Argentieri

This photo was taken during the Raqqa operation in Syria, while Argentieri was filming the documentary “I am the Revolution.” Photo Courtesy of Benedetta Argentieri.

Benedetta Argentieri is an independent journalist and director based in New York. She has covered Iraq and Syria for Italian and American publications, and directs full-length documentaries. She began her career as a local reporter in Italy, working at Mediaset and then as staff writer at Corriere della Sera. She started as a metro reporter focusing on education and right wing extremism, foreign politics, anti-austerity protests in Europe, and reported from Iran and Cuba. In 2013 she co-directed Capulcu Voices From Gezi, a documentary on the Istanbul revolt. Later that year she began studying journalism and politics at Columbia University as a Sanpaolo fellow.

Hometown: Milan, Italy.

Education: University of Manchester (BA), Columbia University (MA, journalism).

Languages: English, Italian, Spanish.

First job in journalism: I started as a freelance writer for a travel magazine that didn’t have the budget to send me around.

Countries reported from: All over Europe, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Cuba.

When and why did you join the OPC: I joined OPC in 2015. I thought it was important to be part of a network of established journalists and freelancers.

What first drew you to covering Iraq and Syria? While studying at Columbia University I focused on National Security in the Middle East. A few months after I graduated the so-called Islamic State attacked Sinjar, Iraq. More than 7,000 women were kidnapped and used as sex slaves. I was one of the first journalists to cover the story because I knew Yazidi people in the U.S. A month later, I started reporting from Syria.

Major challenge as a journalist: As a freelance, it is a great challenge getting paid the right amount.

“Just keep looking for the story. Don’t give up, you will find it.”

Worst experience as a journalist: When I covered a group of protesters in Northern Italy who clashed with the police in the woods. It was terrifying since the police aimed at journalists with cameras. On the same note, in 2013 I covered the protests at Gezi Park, Istanbul. I was shooting a documentary. I thought I was at a safe distance from the police, but when they attacked protesters, within seconds they got very close. I ran into a hotel and they ran after us. In the end, we made it out safely, though it was among the most terrifying experience of my life.

When traveling, you like to … chat with people, visit markets, and watch the sunrise.

Hardest story: reporting on mass graves in Sinjar, Iraq.

Journalism heroes: Rukmini Callimachi, David Foster Wallace, Marie Colvin, Tiziano Terzani.

Advice for journalists who want to work overseas: Study the place, understand the culture, and most importantly be curious about everything. Do not hang out just with colleagues, meet locals.

Favorite quote: “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” – Maya Angelou 

Place you’re most eager to visit: Mongolia.

Most over-the-top assignment: I had to follow a group of protesters against the high-speed train project in the mountains of Northern Italy. They clashed with police in the woods.

A most common mistake you’ve seen: Believing you are the story or, even worse, that you are the only one who understands the reality and you never doubt yourself.

Country you most want to return to: Iran.

Twitter handle: @benargentieri