Emotional Connections to African Reporting

Green, Frank
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p55
This article presents describes the author's experience in reporting on the prevalence of AIDS in Zambia. I was not prepared for what I encountered at Chamboli Cemetery, a sprawl of knee-high brush, bare earth, and makeshift tombstones in northern Zambia. There the sound of picks and shovels mixes with wailing. Vehicles carrying mourners rise out of the dust and add to the general din as they travel down a dirt road through acres of the wood and scrap metal markers. It was here, a few miles south of the Congolese border, that freelance photographer Joe Rodriguez and I wound up one morning during our travels in Africa to cover the sub-Saharan AIDS epidemic. This is a slow-motion train wreck of epic proportion. It has killed an estimated 600,000 and infected 1.2 million of the 10.6 million Zambians. Zambia is not the hardest hit of African countries, but the extent of its AIDS epidemic is representative. There were times when Joe would tell me about how he was experiencing anger along with sorrow and of how he would try to protect himself emotionally by working with his camera to get closer to the people. He would listen to their stories and share parts of his life with them. I kept busy and distracted as possible by reporting, traveling extensively, and taking notes during the day, and typing them up at night. I found the writing therapeutic. I worked hard to simply write what I saw with the idea of letting readers decide how they felt about what I observed.


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