Alumna Spotlight: Lakshmi Gandhi '03
Lakshmi Gandhi '03 was history major at Bryn Mawr and now works as a freelance journalist, editor, and social media manager in New York City.
Lakshmi will return to campus as part of the Career & Civic Engagement Office’s "Listen, Learn, and Connect" event to talk about careers in journalism, media, and broadcasting from 7-8 p.m. on Nov. 11. Lakshmi will be joined by Euna Park '14, a freelance journalist and photographer based in New Jersey, and Laura James '15, a freelance content producer based in Georgia. Students can learn more and register via Handshake.
In the below Q&A, Lakshmi talks about breaking into the field of journalism and the skills she gained writing for The Bi-Co News.
How did you get involved in your current field?
I’ve always been fascinated by journalism. I wrote for my high school paper and then for The Bi-Co News when I got to college, so I have always felt the pull of the media world. A couple of years after I graduated I was hired as a desk assistant at PBS Newshour, where I fact-checked scripts and created research files for the show’s producers and anchors. I was accepted into the brand new CUNY Graduate School of Journalism while I was at PBS and I moved back home to Long Island and commuted into the city for school.
I was one of those alums who had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do after graduating from Bryn Mawr (please note that I don’t recommend doing this! It was very stressful!). Given that, I was determined to be more organized as my journalism school graduation approached. I interned at CNN during my spring semester of journalism school and it turns out that taking that internship was one of the best professional decisions I’ve made. Not only was I hired as a news assistant shortly before I got my master's in journalism, but almost all of the jobs I have had since then have been about four degrees away from that first CNN position because of the network I created there.
What part of your Bryn Mawr experience has been most important to your professional development?
I was extremely socially anxious when I arrived on campus as an 18 year old and my time on The Bi-Co News forced me to get out of my dorm room and actually talk to people and attend different events. I would go to so many cool talks and meetings on both Bryn Mawr and Haverford’s campuses that I probably would not have gone to on my own because I would cover them for the paper. It was also at the paper that I developed a sense of what made a good news story and the types of things that readers on both campuses responded to.
I also have to say that being a history major has also helped me when it comes to conducting in-depth research and putting events into context. A lot of journalism is spending time on the phone talking to people, fact checking, and sifting through things like legal cases and old documents. I did some version of most of those things for my history classes, so it’s nice that I am still using those skills today (although in a slightly different way).
What career advice do you have for current Bryn Mawr students?
I think it’s really important for anyone interested in pursuing a career in journalism to make sure they interact with the world as much as possible. Especially with the rigors of the Bryn Mawr curriculum, it’s very easy to spend hours and hours studying without ever stopping to take a breath. So I would tell students to go to different campus events—even ones that are being hosted by groups you might not naturally agree with. Get out of your comfort zone and start thinking about how to start writing about people and issues in a way that is both fair and illuminating to your readers.
It’s also important to keep in mind that academic writing is very different in style and tone than journalism, so the best thing any aspiring journalist at the College can do is join one of the student papers and start getting as many clips as possible. I always tell students who email me to immediately join the school paper and then focus on creating a portfolio that has a little bit of everything. Can you write a news brief about a measure that just passed during the SGA meeting? Have you done any Q&As with any of the musicians, authors, or artists who often speak on campus? Do you know how to create a good feature story that highlights the issues students are talking about on campus? These are all important skills for any aspiring reporter to have and the campus paper is the perfect place to learn the building blocks of journalism.
What made you choose to attend Bryn Mawr?
I wish I had a fancy answer for this! The truth is that I received a brochure ahead of my senior year of high school and was instantly intrigued. I’m from Long Island, so when the College hosted an information session in nearby Manhattan, my parents and I attended and liked what we heard. I also just had a really good time during my campus visit and could see myself fitting in there.