AURORA ALMENDRAL

I’m an American freelance foreign correspondent with over five years of experience reporting domestically and internationally. I write print articles, produce video documentaries, TV and radio. I am a stringer for The New York Times and producer/reporter on retainer for NBC News. I cover breaking news and specialize in features and enterprise reporting. Additional clients include National Geographic Magazine, BBC World Service, NPR News and VICE News.

My work has been recognized with an Overseas Press Club Award for international reporting, a Pictures on the Year International Award for documentary journalism, a Human Rights Press Award and a regional Edward R. Murrow for news documentary, among others.

I am a native English speaker, and I speak fluent Filipino, Spanish, Moroccan Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic and French. Prior to becoming a journalist, I worked at a startup and as a socioeconomic researcher at the United Nations. I was a Fulbright Scholar to Spain and Morocco, and hold a B.A. magna cum laude in anthropology and economics.

SELECTED JOURNALISM EXPERIENCE

Freelance journalist, November 2012 – present

I reported on immigration in the United States before moving to the Philippines, where I’ve covered the most important news in the country, including Typhoon Haiyan, the rise of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his violent anti-drug campaign, geopolitics in the South China Sea, human trafficking, climate change and other issues. My news analyses and enterprise reporting show that I am a versatile, creative and resourceful journalist with a talent for brave, on-the-ground reporting and weaving complex issues into compelling narratives. I’ve filed over 200 stories and breaking news reports since becoming a foreign correspondent. Below is a selection of recent work:

Co-director, The Kill List, NBC Left Field, 2017

I co-directed this 22-minute documentary, which provides an unflinching, intimate look into the bloody drug war reshaping the Philippines. It has been selected by NBC for Emmy, and won an Overseas Press Club Award for international reporting and a Pictures of the Year International Award in documentary journalism, among others. 

Writer, In Philippine Drug War, Death Rituals Substitute for Justice, National Geographic Magazine, 2017

I spent a month reporting on crime scenes and wakes to capture grief and Filipino death rituals. The unique angle highlighted the humanity of the victims, and illustrated the staggering impunity and injustice that flourished in the wake of Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody, government-run anti-drug campaign that has killed thousands of his own citizens.

Writer, Filipinos Flee Duterte’s Violent Drug Crackdown, The New York Times, 2017

Over the year of reporting on the government’s anti-drug campaign, I developed a network of sources in Manila’s most heavily-targeted slums, allowing me to produce original, deeply-reported stories like this one, where I track down people who have gone into hiding, desperate for justice but fearing for their lives.

Reporter/producer, Loneliness and the Love Doll, NBC Left Field, 2017

A nuanced profile of a man in Tokyo who fell in love with his sex doll. In this story I found the universal emotions of loneliness and longing for companionship that underpin a seemingly deviant lifestyle.

Writer, Rodrigo Duterte, Scorned Abroad, Remains Popular in the Philippines, The New York Times, 2016

In the fraught and violent months following Duterte’s election, I spoke to his supporters to shed light on why Duterte remained powerful, despite flagrant human rights violations and a volatile ruling style. This was my first article for NYT, and I filed a first draft my editor described as “superb.”

Writer, Duterte’s Free Birth Control Order Is Latest Skirmish With Catholic Church, The New York Times, 2017

I explore the embattled relationship between President Rodrigo Duterte and the powerful Catholic Church, from the women in impoverished neighborhoods caught between the moral battle over birth control, to the archbishops pushing back on the president’s bloodlust.

Writer, Duterte Threatens to Dethrone the Jeepney as King of Filipino Roads, The New York Times, 2017

Duterte takes aim at the iconic but problematic jeepney. I breakdown the policy issues and explore the industry, from the passenger seat of a jeepney to backyard workshops and small-time manufacturers.

Writer, At 100 or So, She Keeps a Philippine Tattoo Tradition Alive, The New York Times, 2017

For a story on a centenarian indigenous tattoo artist, I visited her tiny mountaintop village. We joked about her seventeen boyfriends, and talked about death, responsibility and her celebrity crush.

Reporter/radio producer, The Bar Girls of Angeles, KCRW’s UnFictional, 2016

I spent time with sex workers in Angeles, a notorious, crime-ridden red light city. The reporting was a feat in gaining access and trust. The resulting story was a sensitive, nuanced portrayal of the interplay of disasters, trafficking, sex work and poverty. I conceptualized, reported and scripted this 28-minute audio documentary, which was funded by a competitive GroundTruth Project fellowship and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for news documentary. 

Writer, On Patrol With Police as Philippines Battles Drugs, The New York Times, 2016

For this story, I embedded with the police in a Manila slum, for a granular, first person account on the frontline of the bloody antidrug campaign. I’d written many stories from the victims’ perspectives and wanted to understand what the drug war looked like from the side of the perpetrators.

Reporter/radio producer, When Half A Million Drug Users Surrendered in the Philippines, Authorities Sent Some of Them to Zumba, PRI’s The World

I was the first American correspondent to spend the nights on Manila’s crime scenes, witnessing the slaughter in the wake of Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power. In this report, I visit a neighborhood to find out how the government’s draconian anti-drug campaign has left residents feeling more terrorized than safe.

Writer, The Candidate Who’s OK with Rape and Death Squads may be the Next President of the Philippines, VICE News, 2016

I covered the Philippine presidential elections for VICE News (and multiple broadcast outlets). This is a news analysis ahead of the election on Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial leap to presidential frontrunner.

 

AWARDS & FELLOWSHIPS

·      2018 Overseas Press Club Andelman award for international reporting: Co-director, “The Kill List”

·      2018 Pictures of the Year International award in documentary journalism: Co-director, “The Kill List”

·      2018 National Headliner award for video: Co-director, “The Kill List”

·      2018 Human Rights Press award for English television and video: Co-director, “The Kill List”

·      2017 Edward R. Murrow award (regional) in news documentary: Reporter, “The Bar Girls of Angeles”

·      2016 Ground Truth climate change reporting fellow

·      2016 Thomson Reuters Foundation trafficking and slavery fellow

·      2015 Team member, HIV/AIDS in the Philippines, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

·      2014 Manila correspondent, The Future of Resilience project, Rockefeller Foundation and Next City

·      2012 Association of Independents in Radio new voice scholar

 

PRIOR EXPERIENCE

Editor and writer, Kaufmann Mercantile, New York, NY

February 2010 – March 2012

I was the first employee in this startup. I conceptualized the site’s storytelling style, commissioned and edited freelance articles, coordinated photo researchers and interns, and was involved in management and business development.

 

Fulbright Scholar, Spain, March 2008 – December 2008

Grantee, Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award, Morocco, September 2007 – March 2008

Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, United States, 2009-2010

I researched informal economies and shadow banking systems, immersing myself with Moroccan and Senegalese immigrants in Madrid as they navigated the Spanish legal system, culture and collapsing economy.

 

Socioeconomic researcher, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, NY

December 2006 – July 2007

I conducted socioeconomic research on international development and contributed to writing annual reports, as well as speeches and talking points for high-level officials.

 

LANGUAGES

English (native); Filipino (fluent); Spanish (professional proficiency); Moroccan Colloquial Arabic (advanced); Modern Standard Arabic (advanced); French (intermediate) 

 

SKILLS

Broadcast-quality audio, SPSS statistical package (data and statistics program), ProTools and Hindenburg Journalist audio editing platforms, proficiency in several content management systems (CMS), copy editing with AP Style

 

EDUCATION

B.A. magna cum laude, anthropology and economics, Hunter College, New York, NY

Art and art history, New York University, New York, NY