Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Nayeema Raza (SFS ’06), Journalist, New York Magazine and Executive Producer, “On with Kara Swisher”

Nayeema Raza (SFS ‘06) is a journalist at New York Magazine and the Executive Producer of “On with Kara Swisher.”

In her role, Raza co-hosts segments of and has overall editorial responsibility for a twice-weekly news interview podcast. Nayeema is also a documentary filmmaker and a contributor to The New York Times Opinion section, where she was previously a Senior Editor.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

I’ve had a non sequitur trajectory from policy and strategy consulting to documentary filmmaking and journalism. That’s been possible thanks to a handful of people I’ve met along the way. Three of my big breaks actually tie to schools I’ve been lucky to attend:

Bill Guttentag, taught a Stanford Graduate School of Business class called “Leadership in Media and Entertainment,” It was in that class, listening to actors, writers and executives that I thought, “I want to tell stories for a living!” Bill, a two-time Oscar winning director, saw potential in me and we eventually became writing and producing partners, collaborating on projects like That Animal Rescue Show, which was released on CBS All Access in 2020, and the documentary feature Sublime, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2019.

Adam Ellick, a fellow alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School MPA program, came to a screening of the Sublime documentary that Bill and I had made. Knowing that I had a background in international policy and a deep respect for journalism through documentary, he took a chance on me and recruited me to join the Opinion Video team at The New York Times.

Kara Swisher, an alumni of Georgetown (SFS ‘84), is someone I happened to interview on camera for one of the New York Times videos I was producing. Many months later, when she brought her podcast to The Times, I helped launch it and later became her lead producer/editor. Kara and I just clicked – thinking and moving at similar speeds. We had a kinetic energy that has allowed us to speak very directly and collaborate since.

I’ve entered competitive worlds of documentary, journalism and podcasting through these relationships, often without conventional training and with luck – but the reason I’ve been able to figure it out and earn my keep is something I credit to a fourth person, and the most influential in my life: my father. He was bashful in his own way, but gave me an undue amount of confidence from a young age. Thanks to his career at the World Bank, I grew up exposed to people of different cultures with big ambitions – an exposure that continued at Georgetown. And because of my father’s ridiculous assessment of the superpowers of his youngest daughter, I’ve always had the confidence to try new things and boldly believe I would excel at them.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The most challenging part of my job is staying on top of multiple moving news stories and finding time to make sense of the bigger trends behind them. The most rewarding part is hearing from people touched by a story – whether that’s someone who writes in to say they feel seen or inspired by an essay, a person who learned something from a podcast, or an individual whose story we’ve been able to help shine a light on in a fresh or complete way.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?

I’m very excited about the On with Kara Swisher podcast that we’re building at New York Magazine/Vox Media. In addition to executive producing the podcast, I am also on the podcast this time around. Kara and I have a lot of fun making it, and I’m grateful for the tremendous talents and instincts of our senior producers and collaborators Blakeney Schick and Cristian Castro Rossel.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

With this economic climate, we’re very much feeling the tightening of the content belt in every format – from film/tv to news and podcasts. Almost every media company I can think of has, is or will be doing layoffs slash slowing down hiring/buying this year. That said: I still think it’s a great time for storytellers to dream up big ideas and believe that a less frothy environment means the projects we stick with are likely to be the ones we’re most passionate about. I hope it’ll also continue to be a market for more diversity in the stories and voices we hear.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Georgetown prepared me for obvious aspects of my career: learning to grok ideas quickly, shape arguments sharply and debate unabashedly. But it also prepared me in softer ways. In particular I am grateful for the University’s mandated theology credits which pushed me to confront “the problem of god” at age 17 – and understand universal themes that bridge all faiths. The university has also given me some of the strongest infrastructure for my career: a support network. I made some of my closest friends at Georgetown – people spread across five continents and multiple more cities, but always present for a call to offer perspective and good advice.

And finally, because I was able to study a topic (international relations) that I was so fundamentally interested in, the school also taught me that I should enjoy what I’m reading or doing or talking about. It upended my patience for things that do not interest me, and set a high bar for building a career I genuinely like every day.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

Meet people, take internships and classes with people whose work you admire and start writing or making things. Ira Glass has talked about this idea of a taste gap – that in the beginning what you create will feel horrible, because your taste will be stronger than your talents. Over time, that gap shrinks and you will create something of your liking … so for that reason, I suggest starting as soon as possible so you can patiently crawl up that trajectory.

Best Business Advice Received:

Hollywood legend and former HBO CEO Richard Plepler gave me a three-part rubric for evaluating opportunities: Is it fun? Is it interesting? Do I like talking to these people? It’s simple – and actionable.

Trait You Most Admire in People:


Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

The Margilian, which I was introduced to by Dana Omran (SFS ‘05) and which I already sneakily linked to above in the Ira Glass quote.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

Oof. Three way tie between: Professor Charles Pirtle, the legendary Map of the Modern World professor who could pinpoint every country in the world with his back turned to a map; Professor Anthony Clark Arend who taught my freshman proseminar on International Law and got me used to filing three pages a week; andProfessor Maysam Al Faruqi who taught a theology class that pushed past staple religious texts to also reflect on Islamic art and culture.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

Peacock Cafe. I still love going there and catching up with the waiters, many of whom have been there for two decades.

Favorite Georgetown Memory

Lazy days on Healy Lawn.