Levi Ismail ’12, ThreeSixty Scholar ’08
Investigative Reporter, WTVF NewsChannel 5
When Levi Ismail ’12 meets someone with a story, they’re not always ready to tell it.
“There’s an audience out there that doesn’t feel like they are being taken seriously when it comes to the things happening in their communities,” said Ismail, who recently became part of the award-winning investigative unit for Nashville, Tennessee’s CBS affiliate. “It’s tough for them to approach an investigative unit that doesn’t look like them.”
Foundational to his job, Ismail said, is dispensing assurance that the world needs to hear those stories.
Ismail was born in Cairo, Egypt. His South Sudanese family, speaking only Arabic, immigrated to Minnesota when he was seven. Growing up in a predominantly white community shaped his approach as a reporter.
“As first-generation immigrants to this country, all you want to do is find a way to be heard, even if you can’t speak the same language,” Ismail explained. “Knowing that and being empathetic to that helps me.”
Ismail had a knack early on for shooting and editing short video documentaries. Introduced to ThreeSixty Journalism by a high school teacher, he saw a pathway to a career in broadcast journalism.
“I didn’t realize this was a career, mainly because I didn’t see anybody like myself doing it,” Ismail said. “It was amazing being able to meet people who looked like me in those positions and hearing those same folks say, ‘Hey, you can do this.’”
At St. Thomas, Ismail was co-president of a performance arts group, a wide receiver and news anchor for “Campus Scope.”
In just under 10 years in the industry, Ismail has earned an Emmy and been part of a national Edward R. Murrow team, stopping in Mason City, Iowa; Fort Myers, Florida; and Houston, Texas, before landing in Nashville, where he recently gave a presentation to student journalists.
“If even one student decides, ‘Hey, I could go into journalism, because I talked to this Levi guy and learned about his career,’ that’s what this is all about,” Ismail said.
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