By Stacy Gittleman
Growing up in Bloomfield Township, CNN Digital Reporter Catherine Shoichet enjoyed all the opportunities she experienced as a student at Cranbrook Schools. In fact, it was her Cranbrook Upper School English teacher David Watson who sparked her interest in journalism in the 10th grade when he asked her to write an article for the Crane-Clarion.
“I got hooked on newspaper writing pretty fast after that,” said Shoichet, who has won many accolades for her in-depth coverage on immigration issues. “Though we all know Cranbrook is not (just) a boarding school, I spent most of my waking hours (there) at the student newspaper office. I guess (Watson) saw a spark in me for journalism that I had not yet realized.”
Over the years, Catherine maintained her connection to her alma mater. She returned to Cranbrook in 2017 to talk to current students on the importance of journalism. In 2019, Watson, who recently retired after teaching and advising for over 30 years, officiated Shoichet’s wedding.
“So much about the joy of journalism comes from just being curious about the world around you,” said Shoichet. “I didn’t realize it at the time it was happening, but that spirit was fostered in me during those formative high school years.”
When Catherine was a junior at Harvard University and an editor at the Crimson, she interned that summer with the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. On her first assignment, she realized that learning Spanish could come in handy as a reporter when much of an interview with the Consulate General of Columbia got lost in translation.
Inspired to pick up a new skill, she began to study Spanish, which offered her a new perspective on Latin American culture and immigration issues.
“That assignment was the catalyst for me to want to speak Spanish,” said Shoichet. “My paternal grandparents were from Polish Ukraine, and their immigrant stories became part of my family’s lore. When I learned Spanish, it opened me up to a new generation of immigrants and their stories unfolded all around me.”
Shoichet has been with CNN since 2010, and has focused her coverage exclusively on immigration since 2017. She earned awards for in-depth reporting, including a series uncovering the hidden stories of migrants in detention centers at the border.
In 2014, she and a CNN camera crew accompanied a Guatemalan woman and her 13-year-old son on a 36-hour Greyhound bus ride from Tucson, Arizona to Tupelo, Mississippi to be reunited with her husband. They had been apart for 12 years.
In 2017, viewers began to pay more attention to immigration issues as the Trump administration drew ire for stepping up family separation at the border and for a sudden ban on immigrants from Muslim majority countries.
In Atlanta, Shoichet in 2017 chronicled the story of a Somali family of six children who was temporarily separated while immigrating to the United States. Because of the ban, the eldest daughter was stranded in a refugee camp in Kenya. In time, she was reunited with her family and eventually found a job at a place where many immigrants dealt with the brunt of Trump’s executive order: at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“I hope that from my reporting, my audience sees the very human impact of policy and politics,” said Shoichet. “Ultimately, my reporting is not about what one policymaker said to another. It is about what a father says to a son after they have not seen each other for years at a time. I hope I am giving my audience a window into a global or national picture and a better understanding of things outside themselves.”
Photo: Melissa Golden