Jon Gambrell

Gambrell covers Middle East for AP

Written by Sarah Rogers
CAS Intern
Jon Gambrell

Culture. Fraud. War.

These are just a few of the many worldly topics that Jon Gambrell has been reporting about since his graduation from Miami in 2004.

The Miami alumnus studied both English and Spanish, but also maintained an ongoing passion for international issues and current events.

Gambrell said he realized he wanted to be a journalist after one of his first journalism classes at Miami, which was on Sept. 11, 2001.

“After the first tower was hit, I went onto the Washington Post website and followed the Associated Press account of what was happening,” Gambrell said. “Paragraphs kept switching around, there was a lot of misinformation going on, graphs were changing up and down and details were quickly emerging. I was amazed that an organization was able to harness the facts quickly and send them out in a readable form; it made me want to do the same one day.”

His passion for journalism led him to intern for The Tico Times in San José, Costa Rica while still in college. He also served as a correspondent for the Knight Ridder Newspapers in Mexico City, Mexico.

Directly after graduation, Gambrell worked as a government reporter for the Bellingham Herald in Bellingham, Wash. for two years. He then moved to Arkansas to join the Associated Press in 2006, where he produced stories on shootings, tornadoes and floods.

After three years, he followed his global dreams by moving to Lagos, Nigeria. During his time there, he served as a chief correspondent for the Associated Press and developed reports about violence, oil production and culture. He also wrote investigative pieces, which highlighted the failures of Nigeria’s prominent intelligence agencies, concealed details of airline crashes and explored the issue of fraud in the country’s 2011 presidential election.

Gambrell transitioned to Northeast Africa in August of 2013 to fill a new role within the Associated Press as a Middle East desk editor. He said he has been busy helping to lead text coverage across the Middle East amid several wars and revolutions.

Egypt is one of the most important U.S. allies and it is currently cracking down on internal descent, so Gambrell’s position has been very fast-paced and exciting, he said. He has also contributed to the development of the Associated Press’s social media outreach; he led an effort to improve Middle East headlines on the mobile app and has promoted the publication’s stories through his personal Twitter feed to more than 35,000 followers.

Gambrell said he has thoroughly enjoyed working in Cairo, thus far, despite the many challenges that come along with working in such an unpredictable environment facing a variety of societal issues.

“I arrived in Cairo just two days after the military overthrew the country’s elected president,” he said. “There was fighting in the streets and one day we had automatic weapons firing at our office.”

Despite the daily fears that he and his Associated Press team have had to become accustomed to, Gambrell takes pride in the work that he does.

“It’s incredible to have a hand in the Middle East as Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Libya and many more countries are going through monumental change,” he said. “I have the opportunity to work directly with reporters in the field, shape their copy and ensure that we have the best reports for our readers and subscribers. It’s rewarding to see an excellent product and to keep everyone updated on the pivotal changes going on in the world.”

Cheryl Heckler was one of Gambrell’s favorite professors during his time at Miami and she often brings him to speak to her classes – either through Skype or in person on his trips home to Hamilton, Ohio.

Heckler and Gambrell actually co-sponsor a scholarship for students. “I asked Jon to add his name to the scholarship, now the Reid-Heckler-Gambrell Scholarship for Overseas Reporting, because I wanted another Miami graduate to keep it going after I die,” Heckler said. “Jon was an exceptional student who achieved success at an international level at a very young age. It just made sense to give his name to the scholarship.”

Gambrell said he strongly encourages students to try as many different things as possible throughout their educations and careers. He said, “You’re still growing and learning as a person when you’re in college. Take chances and do things that are hard; don’t worry about the grades.”

Gambrell is continuing to cover news about all countries as west as Libya and as east as Afghanistan and Pakistan. His day-to-day work includes developing text reports, integrating photos and videos into content and making sure that the Associated Press has every end of an issue covered.

Although he is very satisfied in his chief correspondent role, he said he is open to further international travel and exploring other global journalism opportunities in the future.