Shibani Mahtani

BSc Government and History

Class of 2010

It was through my degree and my courses that I began to have the language to describe the world around me, and to understand it more deeply.


Shibani MahtaniTell us about your journey since graduating from LSE

I knew I wanted to go into journalism even before I arrived at LSE, and spent my years there finding ways to carve out this career path for myself. Right after graduating, I moved to New York for a one-year Master's programme at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I graduated from my Master's degree when major news organisations were still reeling from the global financial crisis. I found that there were more opportunities for me to apply my skillset, experience and particular approach to journalism back in Asia – specifically Singapore, where I was born and raised. I started reporting for the Wall Street Journal in Singapore in 2011, covering Southeast Asia. That job eventually brought me to Myanmar, where I was based for three years watching its historic democratic opening that saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party take power – especially surreal to think about now in the context of the coup and violence that has gripped the country. I then relocated to Chicago, where I watched another seismic transition: that of the election of Donald Trump in 2016. I spent a few years covering the Midwest from my base in Chicago. It was in equal parts fascinating and frightening to watch the intersection between themes of race, immigration and economic inequality come together in a lot of the stories I covered.

In 2018, I joined the Washington Post as their Southeast Asia bureau chief; an exciting opportunity at a time where the Post was expanding their international footprint. Hong Kong was my base. It was chosen largely because of its seamless international travel links, the ease of setting up business there and obtaining a visa, and because it was relatively quiet (from a news perspective) compared to the rest of the region. All of these assumptions quickly fell apart, and soon I found myself on the frontlines covering one of the biggest and most enduring protest movements the world had seen. My focus turned almost exclusively to Hong Kong, where I profiled radical young protesters and documented police brutality. Then the pandemic hit, and China passed a draconian new national security law, and everything in the city changed.

I have since started a new role as an investigative correspondent based in Singapore, but am also about to publish a book on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Titled “Among the Braves,” the book was written with my husband, who is also a journalist. Our profession is often described as a first draft of history, but in the case of Hong Kong and our book specifically, we see ourselves as helping to document and record history, before forces more powerful work to rewrite it.  

How has studying in the Department of Government helped you since graduation? 

A grounding in political systems and history has underpinned and informed every step my career has taken since. I benefitted tremendously from an open and rigorous academic environment at LSE. It was through my degree and my courses that I began to have the language to describe the world around me, and to understand it more deeply.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

By far, it is the upcoming publication of my book, Among the Braves. The process of pitching a book was extremely daunting, though we were lucky to have friends and colleagues to help us through. Even once we secured an agent and began working on a proposal, there were curveballs: most notably the situation in Hong Kong itself, where people we hoped to speak to ended up jailed as political prisoners. Writing it also meant reliving the trauma of witnessing the violence and chaos on the streets. We are very proud of the book we have put together, and are excited to share it with the world.  

What do you have for students wanting to pursue a career in journalism?

The most heartening thing for me to have seen in my 12 years working as a professional journalist is the evolution of the industry, and storytelling itself. There are so many varied roles within the media and journalism now. We are no longer limited to traditional formats of storytelling too, and have moved so far beyond the silos of “radio,” “tv” and “print” journalism. For young aspiring journalists, this is a thrilling opportunity. My advice would be to find a medium of storytelling that suits you the most: whether it is data, video, multimedia design, podcasts, comics or really anything in between. These skills will help aspiring journalists prepare for changing newsrooms, as well, where roles and needs are changing. 

What is your fondest memory from LSE? 

My most treasured moment at LSE was when I was elected editor of The Beaver, the historied campus newspaper. I was especially proud to be an international student and a woman leading the newspaper, which tended to be dominated at the time by white British men. It was in many ways the beginnings of my path into journalism, but also allowed me to experience LSE in a completely different way. I fondly remember the late Sunday nights scrambling with the editorial team to get the paper out in time, our weekly dinners, and the shenanigans up on the media corridor with our friends from PuLSE Radio, LOOSE TV and Clare Market Review

What was your favourite project whilst studying at LSE?

Other than the Beaver, I really enjoyed my courses that pertained to Cold War history and historiography, which seem extremely relevant to the current global moment we are in.