#PowerWomen – Journalist Aarti Virani

AartiVirani_VogueIndiaHeadshot

I love learning about South Asian arts and culture. Reading articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Vogue India, I noticed that journalist Aarti Virani authored many of my favorite stories. As a blogger, I’m always interested in learning how to tell a good story and write in a way that resonates with readers. I chatted with Aarti to learn more about her background, passion for journalism, and storytelling techniques. 

Meet Journalist Aarti Virani

  • What drew you to journalism? Growing up in Japan, I experienced a devastating 7.2 earthquake when I was ten years old. In the quake’s aftermath, I took out a notebook and decided to write. That’s when I realized writing is what I gravitate to when I need to make sense of my surroundings. The story I wrote ended up being a part of a book that my school published to help children cope with the traumatic event. From then on I knew I wanted to study journalism.
  • How did you cultivate your craft? While studying journalism at Syracuse University, I did whatever I could to learn more about the magazine world. I cut my teeth as editor of our on-campus multicultural magazine, in addition to interning at a national women’s magazine, Jane, during a summer in New York City. Early on, I did a lot of fact checking and discovered that while every publication had its own approach, it was an underrated skill. There’s a reason one of the first rules you’re taught in journalism school is: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” My commitment to conducting efficient, accurate research to determine the correctness of any facts, no matter how seemingly trivial, has strengthened my skills as a reporter.
  • How did you start writing about South Asian culture? My first internship was with the Indo-American Arts Council in New York City and I realized I had close access to all sorts of creative South Asian personalities and art forms as a storyteller. After the internship, I decided to focus on this niche area, thanks to the connections I developed at the IAAC. Writing about what I am interested in came easily to me.
  • How did you become a journalist for such well-known publications? Initially I envisioned my ideal job to be a staff writer for a publication. I spent a year in the research department at Travel and Leisure to understand the nuts and bolts of the publishing process. I soon realized that a career in journalism has changed from the way it used to be 5-10 years ago. Now many well-known publications look to freelance writers to contribute stories and then become regular contributors.
  • Tell us more about your work with Vogue India? I have been writing for Vogue India for almost four years. Getting my initial foot in the door took persistence. My first pitch was turned down. I took time to gain more experience as a writer and develop my skills. A year later I went back to Vogue India and made 4 more pitches. Finally my article featuring musician Falguni Shah, “Falu”, was published in the December 2010 issue!
  • How do you develop your ideas? In most cases, I pitch ideas tailored to specific departments of any given magazine (e.g. features, fashion, news)—this shows the editor I’m already familiar with the voice and tone of their publication. I then ask myself, “Why am I telling this story?” Editors are looking for both a good idea and the answer to “why now?” As a regular contributor to publications, I am also frequently given topics to write about.
  • What tips do you have for aspiring journalists? It sounds obvious but you can really set yourself apart by just being incredibly reliable – submit clean, fact-checked copy…on time!
  • What has been your favorite experience as a journalist? Vogue India’s October 2014 issue was their Women’s Empowerment issue. The magazine wanted to profile women who are leaders in their field and share their secrets to success. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Arianna Huffington. To prepare, I read her book Thrive and combed through interviews she had done in the past. I wanted to find something new for readers. For example, I asked her why she thinks Thrive will resonate with an Indian audience. Through my questions, I was able to show a new side of Arianna that people had not seen before. She talked about how the Gita has influenced her to live her life mindfully and purposefully. Arianna also explained that many countries have deep-rooted spiritual philosophies and it’s worth taking time to revisit them instead of trying to reinvent the belief wheel.
  • What’s next for Aarti? I am excited to be a teaching assistant at Columbia University’s Journalism School for Professor Ari Goldman. The course is focused on teaching aspiring journalists how to cover religion for secular audiences. I also look forward to continuing to being on the board of the South Asian Journalist Association (SAJA) and announcing my next role with a leading international women’s magazine!

Connect with Aarti: Twitter, http://aartivirani.com, aartivirani.edit@gmail.com

Aarti CNN clip Aarti NBC Clip Aarti Vogue India clip Aarti Zoya

Aarti interviewing Bollywood director Zoya Akhtar at an NYC event in 2011

(Photo credits: Amish Thakkar, Kabir Chopra)

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Comments

  1. Wow – another inspiring interview, Kamana! The questions you asked Aarti are bang-on…exactly what a writer would want to know! Thanks for introducing us to these awesome people through your blog!
    Taslim Jaffer recently posted…Recipe: Toblerone FudgeMy Profile

  2. Wonderful post… Hard work really does pay off, eh? As does persistence!
    sarita @ it’s my girls’world recently posted…Girls night inMy Profile

  3. Minnie says:

    A very interesting interview showing focus towards fulfilling one’ s dream! Looking forward to a post on the art of interview from your end! :)
    Minnie recently posted…Taking lessonsMy Profile

    • Thank you Minnie! Your kind words alway mean a lot :) Look forward to continuing the interview series and writing a post on my experience and learning

  4. Great interview Kamana! I love reading your posts about successful and inspiring South Asian women.
    Salma recently posted…3 Things Thursday – GivingMy Profile