I'm a journalist and documentary filmmaker based in the UK. I cover conflict, crime, & politics. I've worked for HBO, VICE News, Esquire, ProPublica, The Guardian, & more.

I've reported from the frontlines in Iraq, southeast Turkey, Ukraine, Palestine. I'm best known for covering militia forces (which once landed me in prison on "terrorist" charges). I love journalism, but now find myself totally disillusion with the industry.

Anyway, let's chat.

My work (showreel): https://vimeo.com/264954056

Proof: http://www.jakehanrahan.com/ama


Thank you all so much for the comments. It was really fun to do this and interact with you all. I really enjoy the discussion. It's nearly 1am here in the UK though and I've been doing this for hours. I'll go to bed now. If you want to keep in touch the best way is on my Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jake_Hanrahan

Also, I'll be launching my podcast (it's about the niche details of modern warfare--proper geeky shit) properly next month, so give it a subscribe if it sounds like something you'd be into (one episode is up already): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/popular-front/id1364539980?mt=2 (it's available on all podcast networks)

For more of my work, check out my site: https://www.jakehanrahan.com/

Thanks again everyone. I might do this maybe as a live stream or something in the future if people are interested. Seemed to get a good response. For now though, good night.


Comments: 1618 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

bioticgrasp779 karma

I agree that journalism is in peril. What news outlets or journalists would be good to add to our watch (for) list?

Jake_Hanrahan663 karma

I still like a lot of legacy outlets myself, for example I think the New York Times is overall very good still. I like The Times newspaper in the UK. Bellingcat.com is excellent. I tend to get most of my important stuff from books though at the moment. Less mobile phone, more books. That is a good mantra I think lol.

Oh and also check out my podcast ;). There's only one episode so far but I'll be launching it properly in the coming weeks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/popular-front/id1364539980?mt=2


lastfewmiles34 karma

Looking forward to your podcast, already subscribed.

Jake_Hanrahan37 karma

Thank you very much. Have a listen to the first episode and send feedback if you have time.

WxSquared24 karma

Any chance you could also upload to youtube or another platform besides just iTunes?

edit: The podcast is also on Spotify. Leaving the comment up for other people to see.

Jake_Hanrahan16 karma

Yeah mate it's everywhere I think. All places you listen to podcasts.

I'll be launching this when the podcast goes live properly too: https://www.patreon.com/popularfront

cams67564 karma

You thinking about quitting journalism?

Jake_Hanrahan1705 karma

Often. The industry is in a huge, huge mess. Currency in journalism now seems to be outrage porn or terrible, terrible hot takes formed into Op-Eds. It's a worry. I've a friend who currently has access to MS-13 and can't even get someone to commission him. Imagine that.

cams67233 karma

Be a decent story as well.i'd like you to do a follow up on your story from cizre to find out about what happened to those fighters you spoke too if any of them survived

Jake_Hanrahan514 karma

I went back after that first Cizre film. I was in Cizre and Silopi near the height of the fighting in 2015. I was embedded with PKK youth who were fighting alongside HPG mountain (PKK's armed wing) guerrillas. But half way through the trip me and my team got nabbed and arrested by Turkish anti-terror police. After 11 days me and my British mate (the cameraman) were sent through four different prisons and then deported back to the UK. As you can imagine I can't go back. Our Kurdish mate (the fixer) was held for 131 days. He's free now though.

cams67137 karma

Obviously a lot of western media ignored what happened there, like to the story be made more aware to people especially here in uk.after spending time with them would you say you were sympathetic to their cause

Jake_Hanrahan346 karma

It's impossible to say you can be totally unsympathetic after seeing what happened. The second time I went out to the southeast for example I saw a 13-year-old Kurdish girl with shrapnel embedded in her neck and skull (she survived). To remain "totally objective" as many journalists go on about, is to be a psychopath in my opinion. You do have to always check yourself in times of emotional situations though. You should never let your emotion get in the way of the truth.

cams6758 karma

Me personally would be interested to know what happened to the young guy that done most of the talking in your vice piece,have you any idea?

Jake_Hanrahan76 karma

Which one sorry? Which doc?

cams6774 karma

About 3 mins into the PKK youth fighting for autonomy one

Jake_Hanrahan306 karma

He's dead. Almost every single one of the fighters you see in that doc are dead.

Oodora7 karma

Yeah the industry seems focused on sensationalism instead of the story. I think it's a reason why shows like Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Colbert Report became as popular as they are or were. Using comedy to get to the heart of the issue without offending everyone.

Jake_Hanrahan9 karma

I feel like all those shows are complete trash. The level of smarm on them is unprecedented in the modern age.

ZunG29388 karma

Dark question here but how much times did you come near death?

Jake_Hanrahan774 karma

Fucking hell that's a dark first question lol. The answer is I don't really know. Also, how do you count "near death"? I would count near death as getting shot (never been shot, which is very good), but some might count near death as a bullet zipping over your head. I dunno. Heard plenty of bullets zip past me head but not sure how close they actually were. One time in southeast Turkey I wondered briefly if we might die actually... Like I looked around at the group we were with (PKK youth fighters) and considered for a second who was firing at us (Turkish military) and thought "oh fuck, what on earth am I up to here?", but just kept on moving I guess.

OzymandiasKoK310 karma

If they're zipping and not cracking, you're not too bad off.

Jake_Hanrahan235 karma

Haha aye that's true. The cracks scare me because you can almost feel it.

jfarrar19357 karma

Why is it you believe journalism is in a downfall?

Do you have any thoughts on how to slow/stop/reverse it?

Jake_Hanrahan1146 karma

I'm watching it's downfall everyday. There is a lot of great journalism being made still, however all the shit stuff seems to have risen to the top. The good stuff (which is still very, very good) doesn't get the notice it should. Commissioners are less interested in why children are still dying at war and why young men frequently rush to the frontlines to face death, than they are interested in how they can mock Donald Trump or get clicks through social outrage.

There's also a huge issue with nepotism creeping back in rapidly. Journalism is becoming less accessible for the working class and that's a huge problem. You should see the state of some (and it is some, there are many incredible ones) of the people working as commissioners and editors--jumped up posh folk a lot of them, who only got their job because they knew someone who knew someone. It's a disgrace. The biggest joke is when you get some snotty middle class TV exec telling you what "normal people" want to see, or saying something is too niche etc. People like good shit, and that's all there is to it. Make it good, make it truthful, stop swinging your TV exec dick about.

Rich kids are also messing it up for a lot of us too. I've nothing against rich kids, but it becomes a problem when they can galavant about the world making films on Mummy and Daddy's money till something sticks. It creates terrible expectations from commissioners. It makes them say idiotic things like "can you go do it then we'll look at it afterwards and see if we want it?" Like, oh yeah, sure, I'll go spend tens of thousands of pounds on this doc in the hope you buy it off me. It's madness.

Also, one of the worst things, is these corporate psychopath types taking over key positions in news and making once original "new media" outlets turn stale and elitist. It's destroying originality.

Many in the industry will probably disagree with me that journalism is in a huge mess, but I don't care. I've seen it first hand.

Some links emphasising the downfall:

jfarrar19149 karma

Okay. Just one thing I need cleared up:

What are commissioners? When I hear that, my immediate thought is of Gordon from Batman, but I don't think you're talking about police.

Jake_Hanrahan290 karma

Basically it's Gordon from Batman but instead of a Bat Signal they put up a "beg for your life" signal.

No, commissioners are basically the people at X company that say yes or no to what you pitch them.

ricctp6140 karma

Archaeology is facing a lot of the same problems you describe here. I am not as strong as you are and have to quit for both my sanity and before I go bankrupt. Good luck, friend.

Jake_Hanrahan133 karma

Please, please come back to it if you can at some point in your life. I'm not strong mate, just determined. You will make it if you really want to.

ricctp6330 karma

Sorry for the rant, but the wound is open:

I'm 30 and have worked in every aspect of the industry: professional, academic, popular. My fiance is also an archaeologist. Between the two of us, we've worked in every facet of the field, both internationally and in our home country. But our work has been stolen multiple times, we can't find permanent jobs that pay us enough to live on, and we are not considered "academic enough" because we learned the trade before getting higher degrees. Now rich kids with PhDs have never set up a site, worked with a community, or even held a trowel are getting chosen for jobs over us. We both have two Masters degrees, multiple field schools, and we've been dedicated to out jobs for ten years.

It's a toxic environment much like you describe. Academic incest (nepotism too) is ruining the field. People are armchair archaeologists again, just like they were in the early 19th century. I can't trust anyone to be an ethical archaeologist anymore.

I still love the field, the work, the labwork. I met my fiance doing this job and spent wonderful years of my life abroad, digging in sand, writing publications about ceramics, and drinking with good friends. As an archaeologist, you tend to live closely with people for at least 6 weeks at a time. It's both wonderful and tiring.

But the truth is we can't live in hotel rooms on no pay without the integrity of good colleagues anymore. We can't watch amateur diggers loot historic sites, sell the artifacts to the uncaring public and then watch them become millionaires. I'm done with antiquated professors not knowing new theory and then stealing my good publication ideas. I'm done fighting tooth and nail for every grant or contract, and I'm done with the dirty tricks colleagues use to make sure they get the money over me. I'm done with the intrinsic animosity and all the efforts that thwart scientific collaboration. And I'm done giving up my life for what most people call "my hobby."

I don't think this is a disease that's only taking over archaeology. I think it applies to most disciplines that don't pull in a lot of net profit. And, I feel like I've been fighting for a long time, even if it's only been 10 years. But even that short amount of time has shown me that I am not appreciated, valued or needed in this field. So...it's the end for now.

Thanks for what you do. We need journalists. Keep up the fight ✊

Jake_Hanrahan45 karma

we are not considered "academic enough" because we learned the trade before getting higher degrees. Now rich kids with PhDs have never set up a site, worked with a community, or even held a trowel are getting chosen for jobs over us. We both have two Masters degrees, multiple field schools, and we've been dedicated to out jobs for ten years.

Things like this infuriate me. Academia is a scam a lot of the time. Cases like this prove it time and again.

Thank you very much for sharing your story with me. It's heartbreaking and I hope you can somehow find a way to continue with what sounds like very important work.

SomethingMusic24 karma

Do you think that's why people are flocking to 'alternative' journalism sites, or are these sites the ones you are worried about?

Do you think it's okay for MSM or alternative media to have clear biases?

Jake_Hanrahan118 karma

I don't think it's ever okay to have a clear bias no. It clouds the honesty always. I do think though that being neutral isn't as important as being truthful.

yodas-gran32 karma

I wish there were more in journalism that thought like you. I hope all this crap doesn't dishearten you to the point you do end up leaving. I've seen some of your stuff and have always loved it. Keep up the great work!

Jake_Hanrahan30 karma

Thank you very much. I will try to keep my chin up lol thanks.

AntipodalBurrito8 karma

Do you have any opinion on people like William Vollmann?

Jake_Hanrahan12 karma

Remind me who that is?

AntipodalBurrito16 karma

He's a novelist/journalist that saved up his own money in he 80's and kind of finessed his way into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion to write "An Afghanistan Picture Show."

He's acted as a war correspondent a lot over the years (Iraq, Bosnia, Cambodia, etc...) and sounds a lot like you. I was just wondering if other journalists took him serious. His journalism sort of gets overshadowed by his novels which is a huge shame. He has a couple essays that resonate with what you're saying about the integrity and moral obligation of journalists. Good stuff.

Jake_Hanrahan10 karma

Suggest one of his books to read and I'll read it.

AntipodalBurrito15 karma

"Expelled from Eden" would be a good one. It's a compilation of a lot of his best work. It has a lot of essays from war zones and essays on journalism and writing. It obviously shows where the excerpts are from, but if you like that you will definitely end up reading more. The guy seems tough as balls and extremely intelligent.

Jake_Hanrahan19 karma

Thanks mate. Ordering now.

_psychedalek_22 karma

I’ve just graduated from journalism school (in Canada) and pretty much only the rich kids from my class actually intend to work in journalism. They don’t need a steady income like the working class ones. The poorer folk like me are all searching out more stable jobs in communications, PR, and technical writing. The only people I know who were able to foray into journalism during j-school were able to because they had fluff summer jobs at their daddy’s company or no job at all, no scholarships with super strict grade requirements to maintain, and thus lots of time to work on freelance pieces and unpaid internships.

In first year we had this guest speaker, an editor from a big American daily, and one of the students asked him for advice on getting internships in journalism. No joke, his recommendation was “ask your parents, and your parents friends!” as if we’re all somehow related to the editor of the Globe and Mail. My dad’s an industrial worker and my mum works for minimum wage. It was the first time I felt like I was being told to give up and go away because I was poor. But it wasn’t the last. I was treated with condescension and like I wasn’t worth bothering with by a huge number of my wealthy classmates — the ones who will actually be journalists, thanks to their privilege — and it put me off the industry as a whole.

Jake_Hanrahan10 karma

Mate this is disgusting. Very sorry to hear this. It's sad but not surprising.

supaflysnukaboots18 karma

Refreshing honesty.. must feel like an uphill battle to stay true.

Jake_Hanrahan37 karma

Sort of... but also being an absolute little shit from birth, I quite enjoy annoying other people in the industry lol. I guess I just want everyone to be much better. Being like this is a detriment to me I'm sure, but fuck it, burn bridges if they're not the right ones eh. Why not.

HonkyOFay2 karma

It seems that the news industry is consolidating into these major media center cities that are prohibitively expensive. So if you want to be a reporter, be prepared to pay +3 grand for rent.

Jake_Hanrahan3 karma

Kind of. I am from the Midlands in the UK. Luckily we have a direct train line to London. I'm not a huge fan of London either so I've never moved there. Still in the Midlands. It's rough as you like, but it's home.

HinkleysBane3 karma

Where in the East Midlands is rough? I've lived in Notts, Derby and Leicester (the unholy trinity), wouldn't say any of them were "rough".

Jake_Hanrahan2 karma

Lol okay mate.

steadyfan197 karma

So what is happening in Ukraine now? I rarely see news about it in the past few years.

Jake_Hanrahan361 karma

I know right!? There is constant back forth fighting in Donbas. Lives are lost every month on both sides. Nothing is improving. There are over 1million IDPs still. It's the only ongoing conflict in Europe... but hey, good luck trying to get anyone to commission a story out there now.

I try my best to keep up to date with the situation out there on Twitter if you're interested: https://twitter.com/Jake_Hanrahan

DNZ_not_DMZ171 karma

So what can we as normal consumers of news media do to stop the crisis? Other than properly qualifying our news sources and not reading/sharing shady content making claims without any sources to back them up?

Jake_Hanrahan293 karma

That's a tricky one. I don't really know mate. I can't say what consumers should do... The onus isn't on you, it's on us in the industry to make you good stuff, not for you to have to work for it.

But yeah, I guess just don't trust any government state media (because state controlled journalism isn't journalism at all) and keep cross referencing your news if you have the time.

DNZ_not_DMZ82 karma

Thanks for your reply - and yes, crossreferencing is big, especially since so many news outlets are now completely aligned to their owners’ views and agendas.

Jake_Hanrahan113 karma

so many news outlets are now completely aligned to their owners’ views and agendas.

Fox is complete crap. Needs throwing in the bin Fox News.

YourFavouriteCousin137 karma

What is the best lesson you've been learnt regarding journalism?

Jake_Hanrahan557 karma

Good question. There are loads.

  • So-called "normal people" definitely DO care about important current affairs and niche conflicts even though commissioners and editors tell you they don't.

  • The most resilient and kindest people can be found in the toughest conditions.

  • Never fall into a circle jerk of any kind. Ever.

  • Journalism can change the world, but if it just changes someone's perspective that's definitely as important.

  • Don't piss off Turkish policemen.

  • Concrete is good cover. Metal isn't.

LittleBlueBabies81 karma

Ok you've got me intrigued enough to ask. Why shouldn't I piss of a Turkish Policeman specifically? Is that experience talking?

LittleBlueBabies67 karma

Ok that's troubling. A few questions if I may, given it is an AMA.

  1. Did you do anything to warrant their interest in You?

  2. What happened to your Kurdish colleague?

  3. What evidence did they back that claim up with?

Edit: Misread Kurdish for Turkish

Jake_Hanrahan114 karma

  1. I was reporting on the Kurdish conflict. They were doing a lot of bad things down there. They wanted to stop the flow of information. Simple as that.

  2. My Kurdish colleague was eventually freed.

  3. They charged us with terrorism. There is no evidence that we were doing terrorism as we are not terrorists and never have been.

LittleBlueBabies38 karma

Christ man I know it won't mean much but I'm sorry you had to go through that. Were you scared? What was it like in a Turkish prison?

Jake_Hanrahan62 karma

Thanks very much, but don't be sorry. I knew the risks, we all did, and we made the choice to go anyway.

Yes, it was scary as hell. It wasn't as bad as you can imagine though. It wasn't Midnight Express by any means.

LittleBlueBabies23 karma

Would you say it's the worst/scariest situation you've been in? If not then what was?

Jake_Hanrahan54 karma

Oh definitely. Nothing is worse than losing your freedom.

Laoks7753 karma

Talk more about avoiding circle jerks. The way you wrote "ever" in there makes me think you take this rule super serious. Why? Also, please give examples.

Jake_Hanrahan147 karma

I do take this very seriously. When I found my stride in journalism I allowed the war-journalism-circle-jerk to effect my judgement slightly. For a very very brief moment I became enamoured with the likes of The Frontline Club (which does amazing work, but not my scene) regulars and the champagne quaffing networking journalists who say everyone is their friend and seem to tell everyone about their PTSD. For a moment I thought that was cool. They didn't like me unless I fell into their stupid fold of elitism and very briefly I began to fall in line. Luckily I swiftly realised how awful that whole scene is and am now very comfortable with who I am and how I present myself. Honesty in journalism shouldn't stop when you're out of the field. It should be present everywhere in your life I think. I want to make journalism for everyone, not for other journalists. What the point in that?

galliumArtist29 karma

I feel like every one of these is good LIFE advice not just journalistic advice. Except maybe the last point? But I’m gonna keep that one in mind, too. Just in case.

Jake_Hanrahan31 karma

Haha you never know when it might be needed.

UriTheCat76 karma

Are you interested in visiting Tabqa and Raqqa? I know that the fighting over there is already done but showing the rebuilding of the cities (especially Raqqa) is more important than the battle itself.

Jake_Hanrahan83 karma

If I had the money I'd be there in a shot.

W0Wverysuper55 karma

Any good, not-well-known journalists/companies you would recommend?

Jake_Hanrahan98 karma

www.bellingcat.com is incredible. If they could somehow branch off into ground reporting also it'd be so good.

spaceraverdk55 karma

How do you make sure that what you report is unbiased?

Jake_Hanrahan214 karma

The idea of always being totally unbiased isn't humanly possible. Don't trust anyone who says that it is. I mean should one be unbiased when talking about ISIS war crimes? Or if you see a massacre should you then start to be as fair to the perpetrators as much as the victims?

However, you do of course have to be always truthful and not let your emotions carry you away anywhere too far. So to answer your question, I remind myself that I'm working and try to think about the people all over the place who will see this and need the info with the right context. That makes me keep a steady head. Also, the fact I often risk my safety whilst reporting helps me stay honest in my reporting always. Anyone who risks their life to then come back and tell lies is off their fucking head in my opinion. What's the point?

Midnite_St0rm47 karma

Hi! I’m studying professional writing and considering breaking into journalism someday after I finish my major. I too think journalism is sadly dying, especially with sites like Buzzfeed reporting on literal bullshit.

I’m glad you’re reporting on actual current affairs and for that I admire you.

Any tips on how to get started on journalism in general? Do you work for yourself or for a company?

Jake_Hanrahan114 karma

I'm freelance, so I work for myself, but have to work for companies to get money if that makes sense (although I'm working on a book that may get a deal... that will save me lol).

My advice would be to read as much as you can. Read books by other journalists. My favs are:

  • The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

  • Generation Kill by Evan Wright

  • War by Sebastian Junger

  • My War Gone by I Miss It So by Anthony Loyd

  • Unreasonable Behaviour by Don McCullin

I didn't go to college or uni or anything, I'm self taught. So I dunno what advice to give in terms of schooling but just stay curious and always, always counter the bullshit even if that bullshit is popular.

Midnite_St0rm15 karma

Thanks so much! Much appreciated

Jake_Hanrahan23 karma

No problem.

A__dam26 karma

Wow, someone who actually replies past the first sub-comment. The hero we need.

Jake_Hanrahan45 karma

I am a child of the internet. I love Reddit lol.

Filteringpolitics42 karma

How do you think journalism could best portray a crisis situation without fanning the flames or glorifying/leading credence to terrorism or war in general?

I'm thinking what Algeria did to curb ISIS growth could be a critical case study on how terrorist organizations use the media as a recruitment tool. With the ISIS movement potentially growing in Algeria, their government refused to make a media circus out of every terrorist act, and instead let out a small note on the government page reporting each act. This largely led to ISIS abandoning its efforts in recruitment/terrorist efforts in Algeria.

Jake_Hanrahan65 karma

It's a tricky situation tbh but I really don't buy this idea of "well stop reporting on it and it'll stop happening". There are hundreds of ongoing under-reported conflicts nobody knows about and they get worse all the time.

Also, for the government to make sure media doesn't report on attacks like you mentioned, the government has to be able to control the media, which is completely against everything I stand for, so I wouldn't agree that it's a good idea. I do get your point, but I really don't think the media is to blame here.

falsettolands39 karma

How old were you when you broke into the industry? What were some of the obstacles you faced right away? What got easier (and what got harder) as you advanced in your field of work?

Jake_Hanrahan103 karma

I was 23/24 when I really started to get a bit known for my work. I decided I wanted to be a journalist definitely when I was about 21. I was working normal jobs like labouring, warehouse work, worked in a suite shop, worked in a boxing gym etc. I could never settle and knew I wanted to do something exciting and important.

I taught myself journalism and am of course always learning still. I'm now 28 and have been doing this full time for four years.

The first obstacle I faced was commissioners trying to get me to do stupid "urban" type documentaries because I'm a little rough around the edges. It was only when I met Kevin Sutcliffe (former head of Vice News and the best boss I've ever had in my life) that I got chance to go and do the stuff I really wanted to--conflict, crime, and politics.

What got easier and what got harder... That's tricky. I think just learning the job, travelling about and getting the work done got easier. There was a point where I just fell into this feeling of "I got this", which was really nice. What got harder was getting commissioned and keeping my mouth shut for the sake of not pissing off the industry people lol.

scraggledog32 karma

So why is there no more integrity in news and very few investigative journalists?

Seems like the news is just editorial diarrhea

Jake_Hanrahan71 karma

I think one of the problems is that everyone has wanted fast news for a long time, which is a totally acceptable thing to want. However, with social media hitting fever pitch, it's pushed news to become ever more faster. Instead of breathing in and focussing on how to resist that whilst also informing everyone, news allowed corporate vampires to turn it into a fucking circus.

fieryfireplace29 karma

Do you feel like freelance journalism (particularly in international news & associated areas) is now a realistic long term career, or just something to squeeze as much as you can out of it while you still can?

Jake_Hanrahan51 karma

Unless you learn to film and edit it's definitely not a realistic long term career option I don't think. I've no idea how journalists who only write make a living as freelancers.

ZeroTenenbaum28 karma

best meal you've eaten while in a really sketchy/dangerous situation?

Jake_Hanrahan63 karma

Mate. Amazing question. I had the best breakfast of my life in a courtyard of a safehouse used by militants whilst reporting on the conflict in southeast Turkey. We'd slept outside under the stars/tracers that night too. It was great.

SuperRamenNoodles27 karma

Hi Jake. Love your work and hope you can keep doing it despite the industry challenges. A couple of questions: First, what solutions, outlets or ideas can you see helping the situation in the industry (if any)?

Second - when is your Chasidic trance doc coming out?

Jake_Hanrahan96 karma

Thank you very much mate, I really appreciate you saying that.

Answer to question 1:

I think commissioners need to start taking risks with what they put in their media. That would be a start. For news, they need to radically reshape how it's presented. Just watch 20 mins of BBC World News or something. It's completely unnatural in almost every aspect (a part from some of the docs, Quentin Sommerville for example is excellent). They need to pack that in.

Also, stop focussing on every stupid outburst from Trump and realise the whole world doesn't centre around white liberal America.

Give working class journalists a chance and stop hiring from your dinner party friends.

Stop pandering to hardcore political outrage olympics and just focus on truth.

Answer to question 2:

Ask Boilerroom.

SuperRamenNoodles14 karma

Totally agree on the BBC (and others) point - there are gems of journalists working but the formats, focus is often garbage.

Have you found Vice much better in that respect? I find they vary wildly from interesting, sensitive topics and stories from places often missed by others. And then a heap of sensationalist trash alongside... Seems to be working for them though.

Jake_Hanrahan53 karma

Vice was much better in that respect yes. We made real news with real people and we didn't talk at the viewers like robots. The first three years Vice News operated was incredible. I have never seen so many creative and different people all determined to make great documentaries on one team. In the UK office we were a ragtag bunch of weirdos tbh, and it just worked. When it was bought out by HBO and turned into a nightly HBO news show is when the vampiric elements set in and took away some of the shine in my opinion. I am not a huge fan of the direction it's now headed in.

But don't get me wrong, I owe my career to that company in many ways, however it doesn't feel like the same company anymore. I haven't been staff there since 2016 by the way.

Krowki-2 karma

The USD is still a major reserve currency you can't ignore the reasons people pay attention to the US

Jake_Hanrahan8 karma

I didn't say America should be ignored. I don't write things down flippantly. Have a read again. I get what you mean but that wasn't what I was saying.

housekeepingicomiin24 karma

I hear that editors frequently sensationalize reporting and change headlines. Have you ever had this done to you in a way you felt changed the story or damaged your credibility? How would you handle it if it was done to you?

I feel like it puts you in a tough spot... potentially throwing a superior under the bus.

Jake_Hanrahan66 karma

The headline issue is seriously annoying actually. I saw a good example recently. Check this: http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/04/18/greece-and-turkey-are-inching-toward-war/

The article is great, but the title is completely sensational. That pisses me off. There's no need for this stupidness. Click bait headlines like this are insulting, because it basically assumes the readers are all idiots.

I feel like it puts you in a tough spot... potentially throwing a superior under the bus.

I would throw any superior under any bus any time if they tried to compromise the truth within my work for falseness. Fuck 'em. Integrity is more important.

AGlassOfOrangeJew21 karma

How does one get involved in war journalism exactly? were you an 'average' journalist until you decided to take a more adventerous/dangerous route or has it been something that you've always wanted to do?

Jake_Hanrahan53 karma

I think I've always been attracted to things that are a little more lively. Like since I was a child. I don't think reporting from conflict is something you suddenly decide to do. It was always kind of in the back of my mind when I knew I wanted to become a journalist. For example within six months of once saying I'd never go to war I was in Iraq covering the war against ISIS.

But to cut a long story short, I just found myself a little niche (at that time it was reporting on how the youth wing of the PKK were leading the next insurgency in Turkey) and became obsessive in terms of researching it. It allowed me to prove to my boss (then Kevin Sutcliffe of Vice News) that I should be the one to go and cover the conflict. I was covering regular riots in and around Europe for quite a while before that also. I think that's always quite a solid progression--starting off covering riots and protests and then maybe working up to full blown conflicts.

My advice though would be not to try and cover war and conflict... It's not worth the risk to your life/freedom, it doesn't pay well enough, and it doesn't exactly "traffic" well, so commissioners aren't that interested. It is however a very, very important thing to do still and I'm glad there are so many journalists better and more successful than me out there.

egrith21 karma

What do you think of Israel shooting jurnalists during the protests?

Jake_Hanrahan57 karma

I think it's absolutely disgusting and consider it a war crime.

Atilla_II19 karma

Mark Felt said "Follow the money." How does the flow of money through the media organizations affect their output?

Jake_Hanrahan42 karma

In my personal experience I've seen that the money of investors is less problematic than the money of advertisers. Advertisers and corporate deals and gross brand endorsements and all that total fuckry is really polluting journalism.

CodenameLambda16 karma

How have your views on the world and the people in it changed? Did you start your career with an idealistic view regarding journalism or humans that you've then abandoned?

Jake_Hanrahan30 karma

Yes. Massively. I was 24 when I first started heading out into the field. I guess back then I didn't think people were as awful as they are. Now I think nature and children are the only truly pure things on the planet. We destroy each other and we destroy everything.

Politically my opinions have changed a lot to the point of my politics probably being some kind of meme lol. I don't like isms or schisms.

One thing doing this has done is made me very cynical, but I think that can be healthy.

anothernsouler16 karma

I like your attitude mate. Do I detect working class, Irish decent, yeh?

Jake_Hanrahan27 karma

Go raibh maith agat.

HistoryNutts15 karma

What's the hardest moment you've ever had as a journalist? Something that really struck you and changed your life? I was looking at your work and I imagine you have had many of these, but perhaps you can pick out a particularly defining moment of your career.

Jake_Hanrahan42 karma

What's the hardest moment you've ever had as a journalist?

  1. Interviewing a teenage girl who'd been struck by a bullet and also had shrapnel stuck in her neck and skull from a battle she unfortunately got caught up in. She'd survived and was just getting on with her life like nothing had happened. She was just 13. She even pulled back the medical gauze on her wounds to show us like "meh". It was crazy. I try to remember that girl when I'm moaning about stupid shit that isn't important (which is often--something I need to work on).

  2. When me and my British colleague were released from prison in Turkey but our Kurdish colleague had to stay behind. Leaving him in that cell was the worst thing I've ever had to do in my life. I cannot even explain how brutal that was.

perhaps you can pick out a particularly defining moment of your career.

Working with a cameraman called Phil Pendlebury. He's my best mate. Working alongside him so many times in some of the most insane situations truly changed my life. It's something undefinable when your friendship with someone is constantly tested (due to all the madness we've been involved in together) and constantly reaffirmed. He also helped me grow as a reporter and put importance on the things that really matter, not on what some stupid journalism award ceremony circuit thinks is important.

Donchave14 karma

What about your personal life? Marriage, kids? Have you ever been with one of the locals?

Jake_Hanrahan37 karma

I have a daughter. We have an amazing relationship and she's with me every week for days on end. Me and her mum are not together sadly, but we are close. My work definitely fucked up my family life quite a lot, which I regret massively.

Outside of journalism I like boxing, the gym, weird internet stuff, playing Playstation, reading, etc. I'm quite weird I reckon.

Fame_Fame14 karma

Weird internet stuff like ?

Jake_Hanrahan16 karma

I try to stay abreast of all the strange little internet subcultures. I'm no "normie" put it that way lol. Also, I watch loads of weird shit on YouTube. One of my fav channels is this: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbWcXB0PoqOsAvAdfzWMf0w

Fun2badult13 karma

How big is this whole ‘Fake News’ declaration on everything in journalism and how much do you think it delegitimizes real journalism? Any steps that we can do to keep the journal integrity?

Jake_Hanrahan71 karma

Good question. This whole "fake news" thing is becoming a bit of a meme I think. We used to call it propaganda to be honest. It is a problem though because I think a lot of people really want to believe the so-called "fake news" and go with it even if they know it's wrong.

Due to a mix of right wingers completely bastardising what truth means ("aLtErNaTiVe FaCtS" https://usatftw.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/spongebob.jpg?w=1000&h=600&crop=1) and leftists crying their eyes out about things that aren't that important, I think fake news has become a bit of a marker... Like a line in the sand for people to leap across either way. It's like a lot of people don't care what's correct, just what's popular in their bubble. That's a problem that I think will prove to be a massive history defining fuck up sooner rather than later.

To combat it, like I always tell my daughter, remember "you can have your own opinions but you can't have your own facts". I think it's also important to not care about offending someone with the truth, because when you care too much about that you start censoring yourself, and that is a cancer


What do you think about Reddit hivemind and group think, which downvotes, bans, or obfuscates articles about things they don't like. This is really just a subset of what actually happens in real life. You seem to place the problem onto news organizations, when really, it just seems like enclaves of people forming their own agenda, and news organizations naturally adjusting. I mean,another way to think of it; what if there is no delineation between news orgs and people? This is just the way people (plural, ie groups) in general are now behaving, independent of news.

Jake_Hanrahan22 karma

I don't want to get too deep into this at it's past midnight here and I'm tired, but I will say that I like Reddit and have done since I was about 19, but I am very disappointed to see the censorship they've used and find the hivemind to be quite scary.

losingfocus201510 karma


Jake_Hanrahan19 karma

I think it's very good and also very bad. It's hard to explain... They do some great work yet somehow manage to make it all feel very unnatural and boring.

derbecrux10 karma

What's the scariest situation you've ever been in while reporting?

Jake_Hanrahan21 karma

Getting sent to prison in Turkey. I was fucking terrified. You can read a bit about the last prison we were in here if you want: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/no-chance-adana-534

TunafishOP8 karma

Hi! Just wondering, when you first started doing this, were you scared and did you go by yourself or with people? Did the people in the community take forever to trust you? And since youre a journalist and are not affiliated with any groups, did the enemies see you as a threat or did they ignore you?

Jake_Hanrahan9 karma

when you first started doing this

Properly started when I was 24.

were you scared and did you go by yourself or with people

A little bit, but more than anything I was excited to be experience all these things. I work with a small team. Most of my films are me (reporter and producer), one cameraman, one fixer. I don't like working with teams any bigger than that tbh. It makes it hard to get about and it alienates the people you're going to see.

Did the people in the community take forever to trust you?

It can do yes. But you have to put the time in. I always just be myself, be honest with my intentions always, be open, be ready to get your hands dirty, and smile.

jp_books7 karma

What region of Iraq were you in and what is your opinion on the efforts to being some of the militias into mainstream politics there?

Jake_Hanrahan25 karma

I was in Kurdistan, mostly on the Khazir front (a place called Aski Kalak) and the Gwer front. Do you mean the Hashd al-Shaabi? I think bringing them into politics would be an unusual and risky thing to do as they're backed by Iran, and Iraq surely doesn't need any more outside influences meddling...

Once_Upon_A_Dimee7 karma

What is the one thing that you've seen happen that still haunts you till this day?

Jake_Hanrahan38 karma

There's nothing I've seen that's that terrible that it haunts me tbh, but as I mentioned I saw a young girl who'd been hit with a bullet and shrapnel (she survived). That was quite awful.

One thing that always stays with me though, not in a haunting way as such, but just says with me, is the look on a Ukraine fighter's face as he showed me a video of a trench he'd stormed. I wrote about this in a book I'm writing. The way he laughed was very weird. Here:

Later that day I went to a military hospital. It was a grey miserable concrete block of a building. Each ward was full of injured young men due to the increased violence.

I spoke with a wounded soldier whilst he was getting some minor surgery. The doctor was trying to fish out shrapnel from his back. The soldier didn’t want to be named as he was worried his mother would find out he’d been hurt.

“Whenever she calls I tell her I’m miles away from the frontline on guard duty,” he said. “I don’t want to scare her.”

In one of the wards I saw a large black and red flag on the wall next to a solder’s bed. The flag is an old nationalist symbol, now usually waved by members of Right Sector.

Right Sector is the last independent militia fighting for Ukraine. Despite being offered money, weapons, and official status, they’ve always refused to fall under control of the government. They fight out in the wilds of the Donbas, sneaking into areas of the frontline they’re banned from, and breaking any ceasefire agreement they see fit to. They’re strange mix. The main ideology of Right Sector is Ukraine ultra nationalism—Ukraine over literally everything. This means amongst their ranks they’ve had neo-Nazis, Ukraine Jews, Chechen Muslims, and a black fighter all on the same side. The only thing that unites them is their love of their country and the will to fight.

The young men of Right Sector sit in the cold and muddy trenches for weeks on end. They build their own mortars, source their own ammunition, and often rely on support from locals near their bases for food. The Right Sector is seen in equal measure both bandits and patriots. Vadim seemed to be a bit of both.

I asked the scruffy young fighter if he was a member of the militia. He grinned and nodded. He was in the hospital for a minor case of trench foot.

“My toes nearly fell off,” he laughed. “Once my feet are better though I will go straight back out to the front with our boys.”

He then pulled out a Ukraine flag from his rucksack and unravelled it. It had holes in it every few inches. The holes were all symmetrical and looked almost as if they’d been purposely punched in. Vadim explained that he’d had the flag folded up in his rucksack a few days before whilst fighting on the front. As he fired at the separatists a mortar round landed near by, exploding in a shower of shrapnel that tore through his bag. One piece diced the Ukraine flag.

After chatting to Vadim for a while I left the ward. He followed me, limping up the hallway. He was grinning ear to ear. He wanted to show me something on his phone.

“Look,” he said. “Separatists, the other day.”

Vadim pressed play on a grainy video on his phone. It showed the interior of a separatist trench that him and his comrades had stormed and taken (despite orders from the Ukraine Ministry of Defence that no-one was to advance this overtly). A few dead separatists could be seen slumped in the trench with their weapons lying next to them. One was an old man, the other barely looked to be a teenager. The camera zoomed in on the old man’s face, showing that his brain was blown out the side of his head. It was beyond gruesome. Brain matter dripped from the wound. Vadim started to laugh.

EdinburghPerson6 karma

Apologies that this isn't related to something more serious, are you related to the BBC journalist Brian Hanrahan?

Jake_Hanrahan11 karma

No need to apologise.

No I'm not. I'm not related to any Hanrahans you'll find in the media. Hanrahan is quite a common surname where my family are from in Ireland. There are Hanrahans all over the place.

EdinburghPerson14 karma

What about Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan? https://youtu.be/pnS07NS8110

Jake_Hanrahan6 karma

I wish.

heritagenovus6 karma

Hi Jake, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!

My question is fairly simple although you've answered variants of it already.

Which existing news publications would you say are the best options available, and ones most worth supporting? I've seen your replies about bellingcat, thank you for that. I myself rate the Economist, Foreign Affairs, Reuters, and Al Jazeera as generally my favorite sources of solid news. Would you add any to that list? Any notes on those sources? Thanks again!

Jake_Hanrahan10 karma

No problem. Thank you for having me and having interest in the AMA.

I'm iffy on Foreign Affairs. They published an absolute disaster of an article about the militias in Ukraine and how they were reigned in. It was littered with inaccuracies. They do good stuff too but I find it very hit and miss.

Al Jazeera is ok but don't forget who funds them. Also check out their coverage of the Egypt revolution. Shocking.

I like NYT. I know a lot of people cuss them but I think it's still very good. ProPublica (full disclosure, I did a big Nazi investigation for them: https://www.propublica.org/article/atomwaffen-division-inside-white-hate-group) is good too I think.

KingKicker5 karma

I'm studying journalism. I love it. I hate hearing ignorance from everyday people that they get from the media. I wholeheartedly agree that the overall integrity of journalists is going down the drain and I don't think it's only (some) journalists to blame, but also the corporations that own them. I don't know if you saw the recent front page post of the Sinclair broadcasting message they sent all their affilates to share on their local channels, but it's things like that scare me and a lot of viewers.

My question is: what advice do you have? What can we (as prominent journalist) really do? We're going to be forced into that industry if we want to make any money to not be homeless. How can we try to fix things?

Jake_Hanrahan12 karma

I don't know if you saw the recent front page post of the Sinclair broadcasting message they sent all their affilates to share on their local channels

I did. It's basically a fascist mindset. Everyone who agreed to do it should be ashamed of themselves.

what advice do you have? What can we (as prominent journalist) really do? We're going to be forced into that industry if we want to make any money to not be homeless. How can we try to fix things?

I don't know how, but forge your own path. Make your own niche and be fucking brilliant at it. Also, don't let anyone trick you into thinking that you're being a baby by moaning about corporate vultures and their horrific taint on journalism.

MintChocolateEnema5 karma

This is kind of a generalized question... but what are your personal "go-to" words or phrases and how do you avoid using them too much in your work?

Is that a thing? I feel like that's a thing. I get pissed when two of the same words (the, for instance) aligns perfectly with the same word a line above it so of course over-using phrases or words has to be a thing.

Jake_Hanrahan7 karma

I say "essentially" all the time and I've no idea why lol. It's weird.

Alotlikeyours4 karma

What effects of war do you see that aren't reported by maim stream media?

Jake_Hanrahan23 karma

Great question.

The way a whole community is created by war fascinates me. It's hard to show properly in a film because you need to spend quite a lot of time to film it, and of course if you're amongst the conflict you're not going to take too much time away from filming that to show how the community is created.

But anyway. By community I mean like how a whole town will become one again amongst the war. Disputes between neighbours or moaning about this, that, and the third, completely fade away for a short period (they can then sadly become a primary focus of violence again afterward).

I've seen some of the most incredibly dark but hilarious jokes made on the front. It's because fighters know they might die, and when you're in that situation all that nonsense of not offending each other fades into irrelevance. Backstabbing doesn't exist, lying doesn't exist, and the way everyone calls each other "friend" nowadays actually still means friend out there. The love and camaraderie you'll see amongst a community at war is beautiful. That's hard to show I think.

I think there's a big disconnect between what "the West" decides is terrible, and what is actually quite a meaningful situation too. For example, we know it's awful that hundreds of young men fought and died in X place in X uprising, but within that awfulness there's also real life. Things mean something when your life is on the line. That's important. To be honest I think the way our tech-obsessed selfishness and constant self-segregation in the West is developing could result in something more hideous than anything I've ever seen whilst reporting on conflict.

But I digress. I think showing the odd little idiosyncrasies, the makeshift lifestyle changes and coping mechanisms that are often built up by a community at war is quite hard to report in the mainstream.

EDIT: Not that I am glorifying war btw. War is horrible and nasty and I'm very happy it's not on my doorstep. My point was, amongst all that nastiness is often a lot of very real human interaction that's quickly going extinct in safer places.

ROIDBOT4 karma

My question to you is first: How do you adapt to having anyone with a modicum of writing skills, a smart phone and an internet connection being able to do the same job as you? Second: How does journalism regain the integrity it has lost with the expediency and lack of vetting that news is pushed out in the digital age?

Jake_Hanrahan9 karma

How do you adapt to having anyone with a modicum of writing skills, a smart phone and an internet connection being able to do the same job as you?

They can't do the same job as me. Maybe in title only, but they can't do the same job as me. That sounds arrogant maybe, but I know what I do is from a place of non-stop hard working.

How does journalism regain the integrity it has lost with the expediency and lack of vetting that news is pushed out in the digital age?

Through books. Only through books can we regain it I think.

rambosnape3 karma

Hi , thanks for doing this AMA This is probably a really stupid question , but in your opinion , based on what you've seen in Iraq , how long will it take for the country to return to " normal " ?

Jake_Hanrahan12 karma

There are no stupid questions :).

I mean what's normal? Normal there is now constant war and various invasions. I'm not sure it will ever go back to what we in the West consider "normal". The people there are very tough though, and I hope that they can somehow make the country work again without all the corrupted folk.

Jubenheim2 karma

What do you think of alternative media in regards to truth? Alternative media by many used to be the pinnacle of honest journalism many years back but has now come under fire by so much political backlash stating that many seemingly grassroots organizations and alternative media sites are fronts for political figures/parties. I'd like to know your view on this phenomenon and if you like or at least know of any alternative news organizations.

As a small bonus, considering the regions you've covered, do you know of Newsbud?

Jake_Hanrahan19 karma

Most of the "alternative media" I've seen so far has been right wing idiots using it to spread their bullshit, or hard left idiots using it to spread theirs. I don't think we need "alternative media", because that only serves a few. We need the media that serves the many to get its act together.

I'm quite onboard with independent journalists themselves trying to make a go of it via platforms like Patreon etc though. I used to be against that a bit, but I think it's totally viable now. Especially with how the industry is going. Randomly, I watched David Firth's Patreon intro video once (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyo-wVLXI5A) and totally agree with why he's doing what he does independently. It's why a lot of journalists want to be independent too, myself included. I thought about doing a Patreon for myself but I don't think I'd get very far with it lol, you need a fair bit to be able to report constantly.

scrambledhelix2 karma

I’ve a weird question, and a bit of a related follow-up. Have you ever heard of, or read Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan (about an op-ed/journalist modeled after Mencken and Thompson)— and what’s your opinion of the gonzo style in general wrt embedded war journalism?

The follow-up: do you have any role models or personal heroes in your line of work?

(Edit: typos/clarity)

Jake_Hanrahan6 karma

I haven't no. I'll check that out.

I hate the idea of "gonzo journalism" personally. Someone once said my journalism is "gonzo". My response was "Is it fuck!", because it definitely isn't. Sometimes more run-of-the-mill or stick-up-their-arse journos will use it as some kind of slur because they can't handle the fact some young gobshite like me is reporting on important stories and not doing it how they do it. But I'm very comfortable with how I approach my work and know that it isn't silly gonzo stuff.

Embedded journalism is being close enough to truly understand and put context to the truth of what is happening. Gonzo journalism is just the journalist caring more about themselves than the story. The only "gonzo" journalism I've ever liked is Hunter S. Thompson's "Hells Angels" book. I don't like any of the other stuff.

In regards to your question about role models and personal heroes, I'd say that's definitely my Grandad and my daughter's mother. Without those two I'd be 100% trash.

scrambledhelix1 karma

Don’t sell yourself short. Can you share any lessons or takeaways from their examples?

Jake_Hanrahan1 karma

From the examples of who sorry?

ShahoA2 karma

Love your work,

when you were in Kurdistan and Turkey, how well would you say the YDG-H were organized?

Jake_Hanrahan6 karma

Thank you very much.

The YDG-H to begin with were not that well organised. There's a myth that they were 100% backed by Qandil from the very start, but it's not true and I know this for a fact. They began in 2013 in Cizre and were of course linked to the KCK, but it was legitimately a grassroots movement in many ways back then--angry disgruntled young Kurdish men wanting to fight.

I first met YDG-H members in October 2014. They weren't massively organised back then but they were on their way. I then met the main hardcore of YDG-H in Cizre in January 2015. They were becoming rapidly more organised by then and were battling with Hud Par militant and killing drug dealers and pimps.

I returned again to Cizre in summer 2015 and by this point their organisational skills were quite remarkable. If I hadn't been arrested and the footage had come out it would've been a huge story. I had the best access anyone has ever had to the PKK fighting in an urban environment. Sadly though all the cameras and hard drives etc were taken. Note: The YDG-H were of course getting helped by HPG by then, to the point where I met a load of HPG fighters in a town in the southeast and chatted with a HPG commander who was telling the YDG-H what to do at certain points.

MetalAvenger1 karma

How you do you find trousers that fit around those massive balls of yours?

Or, to frame my question another way, how do you do the kind of journalism that you do? I like living, a lot, and actively try to avoid very dangerous scenarios. How do you risk your life to go to those places?

Jake_Hanrahan3 karma

Loooool I don't have big balls, just small braincells.

I do it because I love it. I can't explain it that well, but I just really believe in and love what I do. Part of it is of course selfish--I like the excitement of conflict, sure. But I absolutely love meeting the people I meet, spending time with them, seeing how they live, showing how they fight, showing what they believe in.

I've never been a journalist who is like "I want to change the world"... That'd be very nice, but my main goal is to tell people's stories, expose fuckry, and basically make people, any people, go "huh... I didn't know about that. Nice." Sometimes it doesn't feel worth it, but a lot of the time it does.

tel0201 karma

I follow news about Kurdish people. Did you ever visit the YPG in Syria? What were your impressions?

What are your strongest memories of spending time with PKK youth?

Jake_Hanrahan3 karma

I had 101 trips organised to go to Rojava with YPG, but for various reasons out of my control it never transpired. Not yet anyway. But I shall. This year.

My strongest memories with the YDG-H are many, but I'll give you one: It was after a patrol one night in Silopi. We'd been out with four or five YDG-H and YDG-K when we came under fire from the Turkish military in the distance. It was a mad night, but we made it back to a safer location eventually. As we did, me, the cameraman (who's my best friend), and the fixer (also best friend), sat down with the fighters and drank tea, smoked cigarettes etc. We were all sat down on the floor outside in the summer night, joking around, chatting. Gunfire could be heard close by in the distance. It was surreal.

There was one lad who I noticed was squatted down playing a game on his mobile phone. He still had his rifle slung over his back. When we had a look, he was playing a sniper game. I asked what he was up to and he said he was training and laughed. Imagine that scene... young teenage insurgent sat there playing a sniper game on his phone with his real life rifle flung over his back after having just come under fire. At the time we all burst out laughing as it was so fucked up/dark. That lad is now dead though.

One day I will write about all this properly.

Wolfchi1 karma

What are your opinions on tabloid magazines? And news that is reported even if false just to garner attention

Jake_Hanrahan2 karma

What are your opinions on tabloid magazines?

Toilet roll.


Good afternoon and thank you for doing this AMA.

in crisis

By journalism being in crisis, can you go further on this point? I am extremely interested in your point of view especially regarding the emergence of "fake news" and such.

Jake_Hanrahan2 karma

Hi mate. Thanks for having me. I don't mean to be a dick, but if you have a look I think I've answered this a few times. If there's more you want me to expand on, please come back and let me know.