Just Access

Episode 18 - Behind-the-scenes with Asymmetrical Haircuts

August 07, 2023 Just Access Season 1 Episode 18
Episode 18 - Behind-the-scenes with Asymmetrical Haircuts
Just Access
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Just Access
Episode 18 - Behind-the-scenes with Asymmetrical Haircuts
Aug 07, 2023 Season 1 Episode 18
Just Access

Over the next two episodes, we talk to Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who are the hosts of the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, which speaks to mainly female experts and commentators about topics including justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and much, much more.  In this first episode, we focus on some of the behind-the-scenes of creating and running their podcast and what brought them to create it in the first place. In the next episode, we'll discuss the podcast further as well as Janet and Stephanie's thoughts about international law and how it's developed over their time in the field.

To hear the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, go to: https://www.asymmetricalhaircuts.com/category/episodes/

Enjoy listening!

Don't forget to rate us, recommend us and share on social media!

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Over the next two episodes, we talk to Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who are the hosts of the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, which speaks to mainly female experts and commentators about topics including justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and much, much more.  In this first episode, we focus on some of the behind-the-scenes of creating and running their podcast and what brought them to create it in the first place. In the next episode, we'll discuss the podcast further as well as Janet and Stephanie's thoughts about international law and how it's developed over their time in the field.

To hear the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, go to: https://www.asymmetricalhaircuts.com/category/episodes/

Enjoy listening!

Don't forget to rate us, recommend us and share on social media!

Support the Show.


[00:00:00] Dr Miranda Melcher: Hello and welcome to Just Access! In this podcast series, we talk to some fascinating people, legal experts, academics and human rights advocates to explore ideas about the future of human rights and improving access to justice for all. I'm Dr. Miranda Melcher, a Senior Legal Fellow at Just Access, and over the next two episodes, I talk to Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who are the hosts of the Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast, which speaks to mainly female experts and commentators about topics including justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and much, much more. 

[00:00:40] In this first episode, we focus on some of the behind-the-scenes of creating and running their podcast and what brought them to create it in the first place.

[00:00:49] In the next episode, we discuss the podcast further as well as Janet and Stephanie's thoughts about international law and how it's developed over their time in the field.


[00:01:01] Dr Miranda Melcher: Would you mind each starting us off introducing yourselves a little bit and explaining your careers to get to this point of launching and hosting the wonderful podcast that we're here to talk about. Stephanie, perhaps you'd like to go first?

[00:01:15] Stephanie van den Berg: Yes. Hi everybody! I'm Stephanie van den Berg, or Stephanie Vandenberg, however you wanna pronounce it is fine with me. I am a originally Dutch journalist, but I work for all my life for international news agencies and started to do a lot of international justice just because that was based out of the Hague.

[00:01:35] And then realized that this was a fun thing to make a career out of and got in contact with the other woman I know who was making a career out of it, who was Janet Anderson. And basically had coffee with her and said, how do you do this? And then we started working together on international Justice Tribune, which was then a kind of newsletter that circulated.

[00:02:00] So some of the older guard might still know that. And when that kind of petered out, we were both looking for a way to talk more about international justice and me very specifically, 'cause I was working for all these news agencies and it's super condensed what you can write. I can write maybe 600 words if it's a really important case.

[00:02:19] And I had lots of questions beside that and lots of things that I wanted to add that I could never put in. So then we landed on this idea mostly Janet, who has the radio experience, which you will hear in the super nice crisp BBC pronunciation and much more getting to the point than I do, said we should do this podcast.

[00:02:39] And we should do it, and we should talk to mainly women because we always ask the same middle-aged men who are wonderful, but they're always the ones getting quoted and we need to connect more with women and get that. And so that's how we started the podcast.

[00:02:56] Janet Anderson: As Stephanie said, my background is with the BBC as a journalist, and that was in the 1990s and the world kind of flipped and changed at that point, and that was when you saw the start of the international tribunals. 'cause before I would be covering at a distance, you know, like a war in Angola or Mozambique and like, you know, a load of people would die and there'd be a load of attacks and nothing else would happen.

[00:03:30] You were just reporting on the fact that these things were on the ground. There was never any sense that would ever be a possible prosecution, a possible process, a possible something somewhere where things were gone. And then you had what happened in former Yugoslavia and you had what happened in Rwanda, so I was living in Tanzania and spotted that the Rwanda tribunal was happening and my journalistic instincts were fired up.

[00:03:59] I'd left the BBC by that stage. And I started working on enabling journalists to understand what was going on at the Rwanda Tribunal in Arusha. And that, you know, basically just ask you all the questions that we keep on asking still in the podcast, it's how does it work? Why is it like this? What happens next?

[00:04:21] And then being back in the Hague, it seemed obvious to carry on doing that in various forms and felt really obvious that we should take advantage of the fact like you are doing as well, that there is an opportunity with podcasting to reach a number of people. And we really did want to try to shift some of the conversations because we knew that most international law professors were old white men, and we wanted specifically to try to broaden that base and get a different range and more diverse range of people to be seen as legitimate commentators. When they meet a journalist, even if it's online like this, then they start to get a bit more confidence.

[00:05:08] So it's, it's also, I mean, don't want to over exaggerate what we do, but I do also see it as kind of useful for people as well. They get the chance in a really nice environments to chat.

[00:05:21] Dr Miranda Melcher: And given you've both spoken about the specific group that you're hoping to make more visible through this. When you were thinking of the idea and as you've developed the podcast, were you also thinking about a specific audience for the podcast in a particular way? Were you trying to kind of reach the people already in the conversation but bringing them new experts?

[00:05:41] Was it about widening the conversation? How did you think about the audience, given that you've told us a lot about how you thought about the guests.

[00:05:52] Janet Anderson: I'm quite conscious that, you know, if you say kind of your audience is the public, then you are crazy because it's just far too wide. That said, I mean, Stephanie's audience is the public because she's Reuters. So, that's why she has to get her stuff down to specific lenghts, that's why she has to, and I'm sure she'll explain more, you know, what she has to do in order to do her work.

[00:06:17] But with this podcast, who were we thinking about would be the audience. I mean, honestly, people like us, people who are interested and want to know more and wanna know some of the details of stuff, but don't necessarily spend their entire lives covering every single aspect. How would you say Steph?

[00:06:41] Stephanie van den Berg: Yeah, I think there's two aspects to it. I think we wanted to make it accessible for also people like us who are journalists covering it. But then if you look at, a lot of these tribunals are happening in the Hague or far away from where these crimes are being committed and then local journalists have to cover this far away institution.

[00:07:01] So we try to explain a lot of the acronyms and a lot of the terms also, because we're also both don't have a legal background as such. We're not trained lawyers, so we don't know those terms. So we need that explanation. And also, I think my idea is, how would I explain it to somebody who isn't used to the court?

[00:07:18] So maybe journalists from situation countries, but also students and aid workers and all kinds of people. You have to have some peripheral interest in this to wanna be listening to this podcast. Right? 'cause it's pretty niche. And I accept that and I don't think, like, we're never gonna be number one on iTunes.

[00:07:34] It's not geared for such a large audience, but I wanna keep it accessible for people who are just interested and maybe a part of it. So there's also lawyers who are super interested in the legal bits, but don't know all the different courts or don't know how this works or that country works. And we also shift, kind of to get specialists on that to give a bit more of the background.

[00:07:53] So I think we're trying to, I think my general description of interested audience is somebody with a broad interest in international justice who just likes to hear about these kind of cases. But I'm always extremely proud when people who don't have a lot to do with international justice listen to the podcast and like it.

[00:08:14] My biggest compliment is always when your brother, who is a landscape gardener, likes the podcast and understands it and goes that it's well explained. My sister-in-law, listens to it and she also has nothing to do with international justice, and I always also get notes from her.

[00:08:31] And I'm always really excited when people who, you know, have no real affinity with it, still get drawn in. They start to listen because, oh, it's Janet, or, oh, it's Steph, and we need to, you know, listen what they're doing, but they're actually listening and they're picking stuff up from it, and that's really wonderful.

[00:08:47] Janet Anderson: Another range of people that I came across somebody recently who's a legal advisor at one of the embassies in the Hague, so you know, real proper lawyer and knows her stuff. She doesn't actually bother with international criminal justice very much, which is the stuff that goes on at the International Criminal Court, stuff to do with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity. She's more working on the OPCW, which is to do with chemical weapons. She's working on the International Court of Justice and she's working on a number of the other institutions that are around in The Hague. So she was telling me she listens to the podcast also to catch up on the stuff that she doesn't have in her kind of first rank. Just, you know, it's like keeping on top of the news and I'm feeling quite stretched, honestly, in the sense that, you know, we are trying to cover, it feels like it's getting an ever wider amount of stuff that we're trying to cover because there is so much in this world that is happening.

[00:09:55] Stephanie van den Berg: And it also works very much that we kind of flit about in what catches our interest. If Janet or I run into somebody who's really interesting and has something interesting to say, that links to international justice in our minds, we will just also have them on 'cause it's interesting for us to talk to that person.

[00:10:13] Dr Miranda Melcher: So, given that, Stephanie, as you said, this is sort of a niche area, but there's all these different audiences, I'm wondering if we can do one question further back and then we'll think more about are there any threads to the present? How did you each individually stumble on this niche area and remain so invested in it that you're here now?

[00:10:34] Was there kind of a moment, was it a process? You know, if we think about getting into this field and interest, we do often see the same pathways and I think we often are talking, we know that some of our audience are students, and so thinking about ways into this space is often something we want to think about.

[00:10:52] Stephanie van den Berg: Yeah, well I think my first steps towards this was when I was a student in the late 1990s, so I was a student of journalism when the war in the former Balkans was going full throttle and so that was a space where you could imagine yourself, right? Of course, I mean when you start journalism or you want to do that, you kind of imagine, or I did, I imagined myself as the heroic war reporter, right?

[00:11:21] Or, you know, I think my initial thought was that I wanted to be a photographer. And until I realized that the problem there is that when people fire at you and you're a writing journalist, you can duck and when you're a photographer, you have to stand up and get the picture. Then I realized that that's probably not for me.

[00:11:39] So the romantic idea was to be, you know, the hardened war reporter, which never came to be, but I looked a bit already into the war in the former Yugoslavia, because that was what was going on. My thesis, for example, for my study was on, I think the photography choice in European newspapers about the war in Bosnia and if you could make any links with the political leanings of the government or the different concepts of the war, whether you think it's a medieval hatred that are carrying on, or if you think that it's a more modern power struggle than what kind of pictures do you choose, and does it matter if you have a left wing or right wing newspaper, that kind of thing. 

[00:12:21] And so I knew something about that war. And then one of my first jobs was to be at the Dutch news agencies foreign desk. And the foreign desk in the Netherlands, they are the ones that could sent to cover the tribunals. And we had the Yugoslav tribunal there, and we had one colleague who was super into the Yugoslav Tribunal and of course, trying to find other people to go with him. I think I went with him the first time was the initial appearance of Biljana Plavšić, the former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister. 

[00:12:50] And I went to the court because I was like, well, I know something about the former Yugoslavia and I read about it then, so this is really interesting. Let's go to this court. And then I think I started working for, Agence France Presse, then the tribunal coverage became much more important because it's much more important for international media, weirdly than it is for Dutch media. 

[00:13:11] And honestly, the AFP Bureau in the Hague was across the street from the Yugoslav Tribunal, so we would go there a lot. As a, you know, I majored in journalism and history, so it was really interesting. It's kind of a history being made before your eyes. And I was still very much into that romantic idea that the trials might establish a historical truth that I now have my doubts about. But I was very, very into that.

[00:13:37] And so I followed those trials fairly closely. And then fairly soon after I started working for AFP in 2001, I think, I don't recall exactly, but early 2000s, Slobodan Milošević which was extradited and that was the biggest thing for the tribunal ever. And that was the first ever former head of state on trial since Nuremberg and it became a huge deal and I was basically there every day covering it. 

[00:14:02] And then that was real on the job learning situation. So at some point you become the person who knows all about it. So then you get asked to do a lot more with it. And so I really liked that, and I liked the, yeah, I just got gripped also by the conflict and by a lot of my colleagues who were a lot of Yugoslav journalists. Legendary Yugoslav journalist Mirko Klaren who is the one who called for a tribunal, in one of the op-eds and got it, and then was reporting on it from there with his sense news agency. And it was really inspiring to see the people that this all had happened to or from the country that it all had happened working so hard and really wanting this tribunal, that this was a super interesting thing for me to cover.

[00:14:54] And it also showed a lot of resilience of people. And when you cover a lot of those war crimes, you think, I remember, I think I went to Balkans for the first time in 2004 because I was like, I only hear about the misery, you know, the horrible things of camps, of genocide, of Srebrenica, all these things.

[00:15:15] Either these people are entirely miserable and that country is horrible or I'm gonna have to go see for myself 'cause it's very disheartening otherwise. And so we went on holiday there, with my partner and we loved it. It was wonderful. And I really enjoy kind of black sense of humor that seems to also come with surviving that kind of conflict unfortunately. 

[00:15:39] But, that made me like the region much more and made me also more involved in feeling that this is an important process to report upon and feeling that I have a role if that I can witness these trials and then tell people about them. So I have a kind of missionary zeal in that sense as a journalist to cover it and to cover it well, so that people understand it well. 

[00:16:04] And that only increased after for eight years working in the Netherlands, I got kind of fed up with the Netherlands and Dutch politics got more and more right wing and I didn't like to have to report on that all the time, so I got stationed abroad. First I went to Dakar in Senegal, two years, just to have something different, but then a posting opened up in Belgrade and I was AFP West Balkans correspondent for five years, which is also amazing to see that side. 

[00:16:31] You know, you have the tribunal on the one side and what happens in the justice, but you also see what happens on the ground. And with the background it was really wonderful to do that as well. And it just never let me go after that.

[00:16:47] Janet Anderson: I'd say for me there are kind of two threads that for many years, before I joined the BBC, I'd been really interested in how to shape and make and explain things via television or radio program, so kind of documentary making. That was really what I was most interested in rather than direct hands-on reporting, I wanted to explain things. I wanted to find ways of storytelling. 

[00:17:17] And that's a very strong theme in my work, is trying to find a different way of telling what's going on, whether it's through the words of somebody themselves who's experienced it or somebody else's commentary, or you know, how you put that all together.

[00:17:32] And that work meant that I did some current affairs work, but I also did quite a lot of culture and arts work and mainly focused on the African continent. When I ended up being in Africa actually as a news correspondent, in the end working across all the BBC outlets, particularly at a very busy newsy time, I still had in the back of my mind yes, it's really interesting and I'm really kind of enjoying the pressure and what I can do, and yeah, huge range of material I could put out, but I had always this, why me? 

[00:18:16] Here I am this white woman sent out to do this and I can explain things for my audience, but I really want to see local journalists do their work as well as possible. And there's people I rely on often to get information, you know, they're really colleagues rather than sort of me up there and them down there in some way. So that's also been a strong theme of the rest of my work is this awful term capacity building. Trying to enable others to have access, trying to enable others to understand.

[00:18:53] So I think it's that kind of combination of wanting to explain things myself and finding that really interesting, that challenging to do. You know, how do you explain things well? And then also how do you enable enough material to be given to others or developed with others so that they do what they want with it in the end.

[00:19:16] I see the podcast very much in those terms. We take it very seriously, as in terms of our professional standards, you know, we don't want to put anything out that's not accurate, but we are also doing it, because we think it's quite fun and light and interesting enough to enable a broader section of people, including fellow journalists around the world, to have access to this weird world.

[00:19:45] And in terms of why, why this weird world, you know? Yeah. Back to the Arusha Tribunal, being based in Dar es Salaam for a while, but then also being dumped in the Hague and thinking, well, you know, who on earth wants to report on Dutch politics? Not me. So what is it that's actually interesting that's going on here?

[00:20:07] And it's not to say that Dutch politics aren't interesting, I mean, if that's what you're into, fine. It's just not my cup of tea. And the courts and the tribunals got progressively more and more interesting over the last 20 years and aggressively more and more opportunity for us to keep asking those questions and keep trying to shape answers that try to get some insight into it.

[00:20:34] Dr Miranda Melcher: So I'd love to ask a little bit, Janet, kind of off the back of that answer. You've spoken a little bit about kind of the audiences you're trying to reach wanting to obviously move away from just white male, old law professors. How do you think about, in terms of the podcast, the kind of backgrounds and job expertise that guests come from, the balance between practitioners, people on the ground, scholars doing research, people who have been impacted by the events themselves, activists, you know, how do you think about the mix of voices and how to bring all those things together?

[00:21:09] I mean, clearly you do it very effectively. Can you take us behind the scenes about how you think about that mix?

[00:21:16] Janet Anderson: Well first to start with, some of my best friends are definitely old, white male lawyers, and they're some of the best people around also because they want to give access to others, so I feel, you know, we've had a bit of an open door in that sense that there is nobody who doesn't appreciate what we're doing. It's not like we're the pioneers from 30 years ago scrambling to get a little space.

[00:21:43] It's that people say, yes, yes, this is what we want. This is the kind of voices we do wanna hear. How do we do it practically? I have a very, very, very long list of people. I read a lot and I mark down people constantly for, Ooh, ooh, that's an, oh, that's an interesting person. Oh, that would be good, et cetera.

[00:22:05] Where I think things that my perspective has changed, I must say, in the first year or so, I'd say pre pandemic, I was fixated on the idea that we had to do people who were just passing through the Hague or they were based in Hague, or they were passing through, and that really defined the agenda and it defined who we could get.

[00:22:24] And we still got a very good broad range of people, but that's been freed with the pandemic. I mean, as it has for you, you can now record things in good quality often via Zoom. So that's been great. That's meant that you can open it up even more. But just to say, one of the things that I'm very conscious of is the power dynamic that we are in.

[00:22:48] It's our podcast. We are two women with a good amount of education. We're both of a reasonable age where we've experienced a lot. We hold a load of power when we are doing our podcasts. We define what the questions are, we define who, you know, what we want from people, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:23:12] And I'm conscious that that balance in relation to, let's say, person who speaks absolutely no English on the ground in a refugee camp somewhere. I mean, there's practically, there's very little practical way that we can actually make that work within our podcast, except as oh, would you like to come on and have a little word and we will edit around it and we will define exactly which words go out onto our podcast. I'm very conscious of that part of the power dynamic. 

[00:23:46] What can you do about that? Not a huge amount. I don't think apart from being conscious of it and saying, okay, well, when we do have people who we can get hold of who come from within those communities and can express on behalf of those communities, let's see what space we can provide.

[00:24:07] I think one of our, I don't think it's a very popular podcast, but it got some really nice individual reactions, was when we had a few activists from Myanmar chatting, because people wanted to hear those activist voices. But those aren't our regulars. I would say that our regulars are people who can explain things well, which often means in academic backgrounds and people who are involved at the kind of, legal activism level.

[00:24:36] So those are our kind of stalwarts. I've just recorded something with a woman from Syria. We've gone backwards and forwards,, on Signal in English, but very clearly not great English. And then she said, I need to speak Arabic, so set up a translator, but I won't use her entire words 'cause I'm not doing a podcast in Arabic. So I will pick and choose the few bits from her, but I've made it very clear to her beforehand that this is the deal and I really appreciate the time that she's given to help me out with her perspective. 

[00:25:15] It's a transactional thing. It's useful for her, as well as for me, to have her voice there, it's useful for her to be heard, but it's not as if it's her podcast. It's not as if she has control entirely over every element of the narrative, because I mean, at the end of the day, I'm a producer. I mean, I make a choice.

[00:25:35] What's the beginning, middle, and end of each podcast and how to tell that story. Otherwise, they would be seven or eight hours long because there's that amount of stuff that we can do. We take a slice, we take a question, we take an element, we take a development, we take a new shiny thingy, what's it and we just ask a number of questions. And we know that maybe in a year's time we have to come back to it. Maybe in a month's time we have to come back to it. 

[00:26:03] Just one more element there. Ukraine. Bloody hell, Ukraine, because how absolutely dominating it is. And I hand over to Stephanie to say more on that from the news agenda perspective, but I am so, so conscious that it is invigorated and enabled and made relevant so much of what we do. But it isn't the only show in town. Stephanie, how does it feel doing Reuters with Ukraine as the dominating thing?

[00:26:35] Stephanie van den Berg: Well, it absolutely sucks the oxygen out of almost everything. On the other hand, you know, this is, it's horrific what is happening there professionally. It also makes my job super relevant for, you know, if I wanna be, I don't even think I'm pessimistic, but this is gonna go on for 20 years. You know, this also raises my reporting and what I do for Reuters. Suddenly everybody is aware that there is somebody in the Hague who knows all about this stuff, that they can call and say, attacks on electricity, how do you call that in English?

[00:27:14] Is war crime or not power grid? Yeah. Those kinds of things. There's all kinds of things that I know from following these trials where they can say, oh, we should focus on this, and then I can say no. So, for example, a very clear example with Ukraine was that very early on talking to people following from the kind of war crimes academic community latched on to that forcible transfer of children was something to really look at because that could lead to genocide charges. 

[00:27:49] And again, I realized that, and it's a bit my pet peeve also about my own companies, the absolute fascination with the worst, the best, the first, the, you know, that kind of thing. And genocide, of course here is if you're reporting on war crimes, it's what everybody thinks is the worst of the worst and should be the thing you report on.

[00:28:11] But, you know, I could tell everybody, we should look at this. This is going to be front and center for everybody. And it was, and so that kind of preparation, it makes me also feel like, oh, I know, like I know how this works and I can say how it works, but it's true that it is hard to find attention for other things.

[00:28:32] On the other hand I think it also does push the accountability agenda, because all of a sudden because of Ukraine, all of a sudden Syria is more relevant because everybody's referring to, well, the Russians did already did this in Syria, we're looking at what Wagner's doing in Syria, the paramilitary group.

[00:28:53] So there is all kinds of links where you can have a little more, but you need to keep linking it to Ukraine, which is also annoying. I'm sure the people in Yemen and Sudan are like, what? You know, why do we keep having to be linked to Ukraine? So, it's a double-edged sword, I think the attention for Ukraine, it has opened the way for a lot of very nerdy articles that I can write about, why things are war crimes, why they're not, what people look at, and those things. Or just politics in the ICC. I did a kind of big story about Syria and the the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, publishing all this kind of linkage evidence linking pro Asad militias directly to the regime and how they were set up.

[00:29:42] That people understand that if I pitch that to my editors, they understand why linking militias to a regime is important because they're looking, they're much more interested in Ukraine and they're seeing that on the ground. They see a pro-Russian militias, they see the kind of Vagner thing and they realize that this is also happening there and therefore this is an important article.

[00:30:05] Where before people would say, why are you focusing on these documents? Why are you not talking about crimes? And I would have to explain always that no international trials don't tend to look at those things. I mean, crime based evidence is not the most important thing. The important thing is the linkage. That's what you want. So there is more space for that I find.

[00:30:31] Dr Miranda Melcher: On a procedural level, perhaps Stephanie first, what is the kind of practical reporting difference between writing all of these articles versus the podcast? Do you allow interviewees to check quotes? I mean, how does that sort of thing work? Going back to Janet's point about being a producer.

[00:30:50] Stephanie van den Berg: For the podcast or in my stories?

[00:30:53] Dr Miranda Melcher: I guess, what's the difference? How different are they?

[00:30:58] Stephanie van den Berg: Oh, they're extremely different because the podcast is much more a conversation. A lot of the podcast for me is also just me being really curious and going off script and annoying Janet by interjecting a question because somebody asked something that really tweaks my interest, whereas, and it's so much longer and you can put so much more different thoughts in it.

[00:31:19] Well, when you write a news agency article, you can have kind of one central thought, maybe two, but not a lot more because you have to put it all in 600 words. You have to write it for somebody where you have to explain the base bit. So if you're writing anything, let's say if we take the International Criminal Court, for example, any article I write about the International Criminal Court, I lose about a hundred words explaining what the International Criminal Court is.

[00:31:50] And unless it's really important, Reuters want you to write 300 words. 'cause that fits nicely on a computer screen. So then when I talk to somebody to give me a quote and especially lawyers have the same, they want a lot of caveats, a lot of "if this, then that", there are very long quotes and I can use maybe one or two sentences of this quote, but I have a lot of conversations where I talk 45 minutes with somebody really insightful, really useful for my story, and they get two lines. 

[00:32:23] And the podcast is also my way of letting these people talk and have all those interesting things in those 45 minutes that I can all put out and can ask all the little things and I can geek out about certain aspects, which I wouldn't do for Reuters.

[00:32:40] One example, and we're going back to Ukraine again, is that if you look at all the discussion now about this special tribunal for the crime of aggression and what shape it would take, will it be hybrid, based in Ukraine, or do we want it as a UN resolution? And Janet and I have and can talk in very minutiae and explain all the details and the different people saying this and that, and what it all means in Reuters.

[00:33:07] I think the line is, there's like one line that says there is discussion about the form that this tribunal would take. That's about all they have bandwidth for in this space, just because that kind of legal debate is just too inside baseball for them. So the podcast also gives me, I think, and this is a very meta thing, but in order to boil something down to an essence of two sentences, you either need to know almost nothing about it and just take a stab at it, or you get to a level where you are very into the details and you can condense it to the thing that you think is the most meaningful. And a lot of what I have to do for Reuters is that, is that I take all this information that I have and I have to kind of say, this is probably the most likely outcome, so I'm only gonna focus on this.

[00:34:04] And then we get a lot of the legal people reading it or the lawyers reading it kind of being like, well, you didn't mention this and this and this. Or technically it's not exactly as you say. And then I always have to say, yes, I understand that, but de facto, this is probably what's going to happen. And they'll have to grudgingly say yes, but they say, well, you know, it's not exactly the way you write it.

[00:34:27] No, but if you look at just what's going to happen, most likely this is it. So, I guess the podcast is also part to redeem myself for having to reduce it always to a couple of sentences and also just to get background. And also, you know, you spend so much time, like Janet, we read about this all the time.

[00:34:47] We like send each other WhatsApp messages for the, did you read this book? Did you see this documentary? And our partners, you know, we have dinner, well, we don't have dinner parties, but we are the people at dinner parties who could get really, really into explaining, the Siera Leone conflict, where half of the table's looking at you like, for God's sake, woman, we're eating, why are we having this conversation?

[00:35:10] But with each other, we can have this conversation and get excited about some weird legal stuff or something that happened, or did you see that, or this, or this? So it's also our little escape hatch, I think, to talk about this stuff.

[00:35:27] Janet Anderson: Stephanie asks some of the best questions ever because she actually listens to what the interviewees are saying, and then it just sparks off this kind of whole chain of ideas that she has. It's a conversation that's the most important thing. That's what the podcast is - it's a conversation. 

[00:35:45] Sometimes it's just a conversation between me and Stephanie. So essentially you're being allowed in to that sort of nerdy chat that we have on WhatsApp or via any other method where we will just go backwards and forwards and that's what we're having on the podcast as well, where we're trying to work stuff out. I mean, we do bring a lot of knowledge just 'cause we've been around for so long, but often it's a conclusion that neither of us know. We just don't know. So, let's find someone to ask a question more about this to 'cause we need to know, or we're interested to know.

[00:36:19] Dr Miranda Melcher: Thank you so much Janet and Stephanie for speaking with us. Stay tuned for future just access interviews and do get in touch with us if you have any suggestions for people or topics we should cover.