Our contributors and their first paychecks

These journalists around the world contributed to the first issue of the ReThink Quarterly and shared the stories of their first paychecks.

1 March 2021

Kabir Agarwal

Kabir Agarwal is an independent journalist from India who writes on climate change, business and the economy. He has contributed to the Times of India, Caravan magazine, Al Jazeera and most recently worked as a national reporter at The Wire, India’s leading independent news website. In 2018, he was awarded the Red Ink Award for excellence in journalism.

His first paycheck: “It was due in 2012 and was around €200 at a state university in India where I was working as a research assistant. But it only arrived in 2013 as the accounts office, competent only in matters of delays, worked its magic. I had to take loans from friends and family in the meantime.” 

Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed

Based in the British Virgin Islands, Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed is the web editor of The BVI Beacon. She’s written for Business BVI, Life & Styles Magazine, and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers. 

Her first paycheck: “I was a waitress at a Vietnamese restaurant in 2010 and I worked for $4 for three months before getting my first paycheck. It was $700, and I bought my parents tickets to The Lion King on Broadway as an anniversary gift.”

Bárbara Rodriguez Barroso

Based in Venezuela, Bárbara Rodriguez Barroso is a photojournalist, currently working in the national press and for NGOs. Her life has been about communicational and audiovisual media. She is a graduate of the National Film School and currently studies International affairs and Arts at the Central University of Venezuela. 

Her first paycheck: “My first job was as an entertainer in a home for the elderly when I was 15. They paid me about $50.”

Puja Bhattacharjee

Based in Kolkata, India, Puja Bhattacharjee is a freelance multimedia journalist. She has written for national and international publications on health, science, public policy, LGBTQ+ issues, and art and culture.

Her first paycheck: “It was in May 2012, and it was for 25,000 INR ($343). I had just started working for a public policy magazine in Delhi, India. I wanted to go on a shopping spree with my first paycheck. Unfortunately, I dislocated my right elbow soon after and ended up spending most of it on medical bills.”

Genesis Carrero

Génesis Carrero Soto is a journalist who graduated from Universidad Central de Venezuela. From Caracas, she covers events in poor neighborhoods of the country. She has written for the main national media and currently works for ElPitazo.net. 

Her first paycheck: “My first job was as a host and producer of a radio program in a local radio station, and I earned the equivalent of $20 per month. With the monetary reconversions of the country and the devaluation, that salary was big for a minor in 2011.”

Grace Dobush

Based in Berlin, Grace Dobush is the editor of the ReThink Quarterly. She has written for publications including Fortune, Wired, Handelsblatt and Quartz. 

Her first paycheck: “It was in 1999 and probably under $200. I was making $5.15 an hour, minimum wage at the time, working as a cashier after school at the Sparkle Market in Wellington, Ohio. I’m pretty sure I spent most of it on records.”

Emil Filtenborg

Based in Kyiv, Emil Filtenborg covers conflicts in and around Ukraine for outlets like Euronews, DW, Vice World News and The Daily Beast.

His first paycheck: “It was around 2004 when I was 13. I was earning €6.15 an hour sweeping the floors of a local machine factory in Vejle, Denmark, after school. My first paycheck was around 80 euros. I most likely spent it all on iced tea and Jethro Tull CDs.”

Duncan Geere

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, Duncan Geere is an information designer interested in climate and the environment. He’s worked for organizations like Wired, Information is Beautiful, Project Drawdown, Nesta, the Gates Foundation, and BBC Wildlife magazine.

His first paycheck: “In the early ‘90s, my grandmother held a fundraiser in her garden. I was 7 years old, and had finished building a huge Lego house, so I gave tours of it in return for a small fee. No one told me that the money was supposed to go to charity, so I kept it! My family still tease me about my mercantilism to this day.”

Modou S. Joof

Based in Banjul, Modou Joof is an award-winning freelance journalist. He is a correspondent for Bloomberg News and has written for Africa in Fact magazine, and reported for Voice of America radio.

His first paycheck: “It was in 2013 and was $64 a month. I was working at The Voice, a local newspaper in Serekunda, Gambia’s largest town. I’m sure I spent it on new clothes and a water bill.”  

Luisa Rollenhagen

Luisa Rollenhagen is an Argentinian-German freelance journalist based in Berlin. She’s worked for publications including Deutsche Welle, GQ, The Guardian, and BuzzFeed.

Her first paycheck: “I believe I got my first paycheck in 2007, when I was working as a waitress at a beach bar. The money was awful, maybe €7 an hour? I once spilled six beers on a man because I stumbled in the sand while having to balance a full tray on one hand.”

Purple Romero

Originally from the Philippines, Purple Romero is a multimedia journalist who has written about labor issues in Hong Kong and has also reported on other developmental issues for Vice Asia, South China Morning Post and Asia Sentinel. 

Her first paycheck: “While still a college student, I got paid $50 for working as a production assistant for a director for TV commercials.” 

Courtney Tenz

Courtney Tenz lives in Cologne, Germany, where she writes for publications including The Cut, Marie Claire, Artsy, and the Art Newspaper.

Her first paycheck: “I earned $4.25 an hour as an accounts payable intern at a local frame-making factory while still in high school, an experience that taught me the old-fashioned semantics of payrolI: cutting checks, balancing books and filing invoices. I didn’t get to sign my own paycheck, but I did use it to buy my first shoulder-padded suit for the office.” 

Stefan Sigaard Weichert

Based in Kyiv, Stefan Sigaard Weichert is a freelance journalist covering the region. He has written for publications including Euronews, DW, Vice World News and The Daily Beast.

His first paycheck: “I wasn’t more than 14 years old when I first started cleaning the car wash at my father’s petrol station, earning around $17 a week. I was proud and decided to save up most of the money — suddenly candy seemed expensive.” 

Matthew Zeitlin

Based in Brooklyn, Matthew Zetlin is a business and economics journalist. He has written for the New York Times, Barron’s, and the Guardian.

His first paycheck: “Helping out teach Hebrew School classes at my synagogue. I can’t remember the amount, but considering the quality of my Hebrew at the time, it was certainly too much.” 


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