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Posts Tagged ‘overseas reporting’

Learning The World — Face to Face, Voice To Voice; Kristof Picks His Newest Africa Sidekick

In education, Media, world on March 11, 2010 at 10:25 am
View of Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan

Kabul. Image via Wikipedia

Just listened to British kids talking to Afghan students on BBC World News — powerful and moving stuff; there is a nine-minute audio embedded in this link.

The British children were clearly shocked to hear that simply heading off to school every morning, something they dread or fight, might mean facing a bomb blast for their Afghan counterparts:

As the children in Kabul shared their experiences, the atmosphere in the studio changed. The School Reporters from Bristol listened carefully to the harsh realities of every day life in Afghanistan – a life so different to the one they know.

They freely admitted they knew very little about what was going on and hadn’t previously thought much about what it was like to live there. Dom said he had no idea how difficult things were. He asked why they would risk their lives just to go to school.

Speaking from Kabul, Hawaa replied that it was because she felt it was important to have an education. Hawaa and Yasin said they had to try and get the best education they could, so that they could help their country in the future.

I could see how moved all six Bristol students were at the determination and enthusiasm of the children in Kabul to seize any opportunity they could to go to school.

As we came to the end of our time together, a subdued and thoughtful group paid tribute to the young people in Kabul.

Callum found the students from Kabul inspiring and praised them on their ability to cope, admitting he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do the same. Dom didn’t think he’d want to risk dying just to get to lessons and Kavita, Morgan and Eleanor discussed the bravery of young people in Kabul living in such a dangerous place.

Nick Kristof has picked his latest traveling companion, Mitch Smith, a journalism student from Nebraska who will accompany The New York Times columnist to Africa.

Here’s a bit from Smith’s winning essay:

My life to this point has been a series of double-quarter-pounders at McDonald’s, history tests and reporting assignments for my campus newspaper about the women’s rifle shooting team (feel free to insert a joke about the fact that my college has a women’s rifle team).

And it’s been a lovely ride. I attended a great high school, I am going to a fine college and – judging by the fate of most in my situation – I will land a moderately satisfying job, go on a cruise to Cancún, take an elderhostel to Dublin and then die.

Thing is, I’m not OK with that. I’m a quarter of the way through my life and still haven’t applied for a passport. As much as I hate it, I have truly done NOTHING on a global scale to make the world better (and no, I don’t put community service at elementary schools and my Eagle Scout project in that category).

But I’d like to think of my life to this point as a preparation for bigger and better things. I have been in love with journalism since picking up the sports page of the Kansas City Star when I was in first grade. I wrote for the teen section of The Star a few years ago and was also editor-in-chief of my high school paper.

But the reason I love journalism isn’t seeing my byline at the top of a story or winning awards. No, I love journalism because nothing else gives you permission to ask questions about the most intimate topics and then entrusts you to tell a person’s life story. It’s this love of telling people’s stories and inspiring action that has me interested in accompanying you on this trip.

In today’s column, Kristof also proposes a new plan to get more young Americans out of their borders and into the world:

Teach for the World also would be an important education initiative for America itself. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have passports, and only one-quarter can converse in a second language. And the place to learn languages isn’t an American classroom but in the streets of Quito or Dakar or Cairo.

Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: What’s the word for doorknob? People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer. But those who have been embedded in a country know. America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate “doorknob.” I would bet that those people who know how to say doorknob in Farsi almost invariably oppose a military strike on Iran.

(Just so you don’t drop my column to get a dictionary: pomo de la puerta in some forms of Spanish; poignée de porte in French; and dash gireh ye dar in Farsi.)

American universities are belatedly recognizing how provincial they are and are trying to get more students abroad. Goucher College in Baltimore requires foreign study, and Princeton University has begun a program to help incoming students go abroad for a gap year before college.

The impact of time in the developing world is evident in the work of Abigail Falik, who was transformed by a summer in a Nicaraguan village when she was 16. As a Harvard Business School student two years ago, she won first place in a competition for the best plan for a “social enterprise.” Now she is the chief executive of the resulting nonprofit, Global Citizen Year, which gives high school graduates a gap year working in a developing country.

OK, I speak French and Spanish and no, I didn’t know the word for doorknob in either.

But he is right to be utterly passionate about getting Americans, literally and physically, into the rest of the world, and not just Paris/London/Cancun.

I was 25 when I won an eight-month Paris-based fellowship, along with 28 journalists from 19 nations — Togo, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Brazil. I became close friends with Yasuro, a Japanese man, in French, as I did with Mila, a Brazilian woman. Most of us had never left our homes and families behind for so long, had to work with people with profoundly different ideas of what constitutes a story (let alone what English words to use) and simply get along.

Our work that year meant traveling alone for 10-day reporting trips on politics, social issues, culture and economics. I covered Cruise missiles in Sicily; squatters in London, Paris and Amsterdam; the Royal Danish Ballet and spent eight day in a French truck driving from Perpignan to Istanbul to understand the challenges faced by drivers in the EU. Most fun ever.

No other time in my life so radically changed forever how I thought and felt about my place in the world. True/Slant has writers right now reporting from Russia, Hanoi, Rome, Beijing, Tel Aviv, India, Kabul — even Bhutan. I can’t wait, daily, to see what they’ve got for us.

My passport, (and my green card allowing me back into the States) remains my most treasured possession. Next to my unquenchable sense of curiosity.

I wish everyone had both and could use them frequently. There is no better way to understand the world than to experience it firsthand with someone of another culture — sharing a meal, laughing with someone you’ve just met on a bus or ferry, or (worst case, as I’ve done) waiting together in an ER or doctor’s office, in a place far, far away from anything comforting and familiar to you.

American college students, though, insanely burdened by educational debt, graduate with chains on their ankles, which makes taking off with a backpack for even three months, a bare minimum to start to feel truly (and usefully) disoriented, tough.

In this global economy, where understanding and working effectively with other cultures is more crucial than ever, this remains a cruel irony.

Journalist Amanda Lindhout, Captive 15 Months In Somalia, Speaks Out ; Retired British Couple Still Captive There

In Crime, Media, world on February 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

wklindhout0222_499101gm-aAmanda Lindhout, a Canadian journalist held captive in Somalia for 15 months, spoke out this weekend for the first time — at a dinner held in Calgary in her honor by the Somali community.

Last November, Mr. Brennan and Ms. Lindhout were freed for a ransom that has been reported at anywhere from $500,000 to $1-million.

Ms. Lindhout has not spoken publicly about her ordeal beyond a statement before Christmas that thanked those who helped her.

The journalist revealed little more on Sunday about the more than 15 months she spent in captivity. Ms. Lindhout paid tribute to a Somali woman whom she said risked her life in an attempt to free her.

“Her courage is a stunning example of one human being’s instinct to protect another. She did not know me, yet she called me her sister,” she said.

“And while she was ultimately not able to save me, she did touch my life in a profound way that I will never forget.”

Ms. Lindhout remained composed throughout her speech, but wept as she watched a video put together by the Somali community thanking her for her bravery.

Several other speakers said that most of those who live in the country are without a voice and that atrocities will continue unless people follow Ms. Lindhout’s path in trying to tell their stories.

“Though Amanda has gone through an unbearable situation, she has gathered the strength to be here with us tonight,” said Mudhir Mohamed. “So in our eyes she’s a hero.”

For retired British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, there’s still no hope of release — they and their private sailboat were kidnapped off the Somali coast in October 2009.

Reports the Daily Mail:

‘We can’t wait more than this because it is becoming too expensive to hold these people. By March, they have to decide or we will be done with them.’…[said one of the kidnappers recently.]…

While sailing in the Indian Ocean close to the Seychelles, their 38ft yacht Lynn Rival was boarded by pirates brandishing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers on October 23.

They were taken to the gang’s mother ship, a huge container carrier  –  itself hijacked  –  called Kota Wajar, and then to their lair, the city of Haradheere, 1,000 miles away on the Horn of Africa.

The Chandlers had managed to send out a distress signal, which was picked up by a nearby vessel of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service carrying at least ten Royal Marine commandos, plus an armed helicopter.

British Somalis are fed up and ashamed, reports the BBC:

The couple’s plight has prompted a series of displays of solidarity from the UK Somali community, whose numbers were estimated at 101,000 in 2008 but which some observers believe could number as many as 250,000.

Hundreds [recently attended] a public meeting on Sunday in Camden, north London, called by community leaders in support of the couple.

Somalis in Bristol have already launched their own campaign, when a large crowd gathered to witness the unfurling of a banner in support of the couple outside the Al Baseera mosque in the city’s St Jude’s area.

Kayse Maxamed, 39, editor of the Bristol-based Somali Voice newspaper, has spoken out about the plight of the Chandlers on the radio in the US and Africa.

He believes Somalis in the UK owe a debt of gratitude to the country which has given so many of them shelter from war and violence.

“The Somali community is very angry,” he says. “We feel we have to do something.

Reporter Michelle Lang Killed By IED In Afghanistan, First Canadian Journalist To Die There In Seven Years

In Media, women on December 31, 2009 at 8:21 am
michelle-lang-calgary

Image by Oldmaison via Flickr

Newly engaged, on her first assignment to Afghanistan, 34-year-old Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang was killed yesterday when an IED exploded, also killing four Canadian soldiers.

Lang was the Herald’s full-time health reporter and captured a National Newspaper Award earlier this year for her coverage of the health beat.

Shortly before Christmas, Lang blogged about the atmosphere at the base.

“I am currently at Kandahar Airfield, the sprawling military base near Kandahar City perhaps best known for its dusty conditions and a very busy Tim Hortons. At the moment, Afghanistan’s winter rains have turned that famous dust into a giant mud pit,” she wrote.

“Life here, though, has been made considerably brighter by Christmas decorations. Many soldiers have decorated their sleep tents with Christmas lights. One bike near the media work tent has a wreath attached to its handlebars.”

Lang was on a six-week assignment in Afghanistan, her first trip to the country, and was filing daily news stories and blog posts for the Herald and other Canwest papers across the country.

She was the fourth Herald reporter to cover the Afghan war in the last three years.

Canadian Woman Journalist Freed After 15 Months Of Somali Captivity

In Media, news, women on November 26, 2009 at 8:53 am
Qableh Ruins of Sanaag, Somalia

Somalia; her cell had no windows....Image via Wikipedia

Here’s something to be thankful for — after 15 months of imprisonment and torture. Canadian journalism Amanda Lindhout was freed yesterday in Somalia and is finally headed home to Alberta.  The 28-year-old was taken captive while heading to a refugee camp to conduct interviews. She was freed only after a ransom of $700,000 U.S. was paid to her captors. She was held separately, but for the same length of time, with Nigel Brennan, a Australian photographer who was working with her.

Visions of running through Vancouver’s idyllic Stanley Park sustained her through in her darkest moments, she said.

It's J-Day: Former LA Times' Bill Lobdell and Newsweek's Michael Hastings On The Story That Broke Their Hearts

In Media on August 27, 2009 at 8:21 am
This late 1960s photograph shows a seated, lis...

Image via Wikipedia

Any journalist working on emotionally harrowing stories — war, corruption, violence, death, poverty — faces a specific and deeply personal challenge. In order to witness this material, which can be terrifying, confusing and anxiety-provoking to us as well as those we cover, we have to be present, both physically and emotionally. As a result, many of us later suffer PTSD or secondary trauma, the price of admission to these searing stories, as James Rainey wrote recently in The Los Angeles Times. That can bring anxiety, depression, nightmares or insomnia.

A new feature film, The Bang-Bang Club, recently finished shooting in South Africa. The name was given to a group of  young news photographers that included one who still shoots for The New York Times, Joao Silva, and South African photographer Kevin Carter. Carter is best-known, to some of us, as the photographer who captured an image of a tiny, emaciated Sudanese child lying on the ground, a vulture waiting mere feet away. The image won the 1994 Pultizer Prize. Two months later, at 33, Carter committed suicide.

I experienced secondary trauma while writing my own book, during which I spent two years interviewing, and writing about, women and girls. some of whom had experienced gun-related violence, including a woman shot point-blank in her California driveway while her husband was shot and killed beside her during a robbery, women who’d shot and killed, women who’d been shot themselves, women whose husbands and sons had committed suicide. Sometimes this was just exhausting and overwhelming.

The Dart Center is a terrific resource for helping journalists deal with this issue; last week’s J-Day featured medical author Maryn McKenna, whose new book about MRSA required much wearying, important reporting. She’ll be one of their fellows this fall at Columbia University, a sort of post-traumatic de-briefing.

I asked two brave, respected journalists whose work I admire to talk about this difficult issue. I met Bill Lobdell when we both participated in a religion writing fellowship at The Poynter Institute. I was stunned by the story he told us then, which later became his book, and never forgot it. I did not know Michael Hastings before coming to T/S but his raw, passionate candor here is also generous and extraordinary.

William Lobdell, former religion writer for The Los Angeles Times, author of “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace.”

Michael Hastings, fellow T/S contributor, former Newsweek Baghdad correspondent, whose 2008 book, “I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story,” is about his fiancee’s murder.

Tell us a little about how and why you chose journalism.

Michael: I’ll start with a cliché—from about the age of 12 I knew I wanted to write. (Or join the Marines, win a congressional medal of honor, and run for president.) As a teenager, I discovered guys like Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, and had a serious Beat literature phase. I brilliantly deduced that to be a great writer, you had to ingest great amounts of illegal substances. That didn’t work out so well. I wrote a column at my school paper, called “Fear and Loathing at LCC.” (Lower Canada College, the name of the high school I attended in Montreal.) Then I moved to Burlington, Vermont, where I went to a Catholic school. I was promptly banned from writing for the school newspaper there. The principal was a rather large man named Brother Roger. He didn’t take kindly to an essay where I compared him, perhaps unfavorably, to Jabba the Hutt.

Anyway, after bouncing around at a few colleges, I ended up at New York University. During my last semester, I got an unpaid internship at Newsweek International. I probably was the only one who applied, as the work at first was primarily on Friday and Saturday nights. But I’d been chastened enough by life at that point to realize that I’d managed to get my foot in the door, so to speak, and I wasn’t going take it out. So I more or less lived at the Newsweek offices, and the internship turned to a full time position. I guess I was 22 at the time. I loved it, and I learned how to write an edit there…. I never refused an assignment or anything an editor asked me to do, which helped my cause.. But after about three years, I started asking to be sent to Iraq. By that time, America was already suffering from its first bout of Iraq fatigue—circa 2005. It wasn’t a hot story. Not many people were banging down the door to go. So my bosses finally sent me in August 2005. Six months or so later, the civil war broke out, and all of sudden, Iraq was a really big story again.. I was named the magazine’s Baghdad correspondent a few months after that. That meant I was now going to move to Baghdad permanently

William: I went to Stanford and the University of California, Irvine and majored in political science. As my senior year approached, I still didn’t have a clue what I’d do for a living upon graduation. A mentor gave me some obvious advice that had eluded me: find what you love and get a job in that field. Well, I loved reading newspapers and magazines. I was a news junkie. I thought, maybe I could be a reporter. I went to the college newspaper and the minute I walked into that newsroom, I was hooked.

My career path began traditionally—an internship at the Los Angeles Times and then a job at a small daily in Fullerton. But then it took a turn. I became editor and later president of a local magazine chain. After that seven-year detour, I returned to daily journalism as editor of the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot. I eventually oversaw the LA Times’ community news division before becoming a Times reporter. I spent eight years on the religion beat and two more years as a city editor. I left the paper last year and am running two Internet-based businesses: http://www.newportmesadailyvoice.com and http://www.greersoc.com. I also wrote a critically acclaimed memoir of my experiences on the religion beat called “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace.”

A little background on this story and how you came to cover it: Read the rest of this entry »

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