Hello, how are you? Today was a very productive reporting day. I got a great interview after camping out for a bit at the World Bank-funded Butabika Hospital in Kampala, which will be perfect for some stories on mental health in Uganda that I have been working on. I interviewed a 13-year-old girl and her mother from Bunia, DR Congo, who fled the country seven years ago. The young woman, her name is Sarah, had suppressed her memories of the war for years, but the memories came flooding back when she was kidnapped at a market in Kawempe last month, and molested. Thankfully, she managed to escape, but was held in captivity for a day without food, and defiled. Since then, all of the traumatic memories of her father and brother’s deaths by rebels in the eastern Congo have overwhelmed her. About three times a day, she said she has flashbacks of her father’s day, and imagines that men with machetes will either attack her or the people around her. At night, she suffers from terrible nightmares. With terrible timing, UNHCR announced that they were cutting off support to her mother (they had been covering her rent in Kampala, where her mom worked as a washwoman), and she would have to resettle to a refugee camp for Congolese. They were given two choices of camps that offer services for people living with HIV. At this point, Sarah discovered that her mother had gotten infected when she had been raped by rebels in 2002 (they then fled to Uganda)– the mother hadn’t felt strong enough to tell her that she was positive. When she found out, Sarah went completely mute, and her mother took her to Butabika for treatment for PTSD.
I handed in my first draft to editors this afternoon for a story on Ugandans living with PTSD. I led with Sarah, gave a context for PTSD in Uganda, then described the symptoms and treatment. Then I used a quote from Sarah for the kicker. Really hope it becomes a good story; I am happy with the reporting so far. I interviewed a wide range of psychiatrists and counselors for it.
Supposed to meet David Pulkol, former spy boss (headed the External Security Organization) and current head of the African Leadership Institute for what I hope will be a fascinating interview, but his phone is off at the moment and we were supposed to meet at 6 pm. Hopefully, I’ll get in touch with him soon and we’ll meet, or we’ll reschedule. I attended a great lecture he gave on security when I was an SIT student, back in the day.
Yesterday, I went with two friends to see State of Play, which starred Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, and Russell Crowe. It’s an adaptation of a 6-part British series, about a D.C. journalist probing into the death of a Congressman’s mistress. The whole time I kept thinking- please God, don’t let journalism disappear. I went with fellow journo Igor (as well as the lovely Gloria, who hosts a show on New Vision’s English station, Vision Voice Radio) to see the film, and he said, “Do you ever feel like we’re coming late to a really good party?” The thing is, I love everything about newsrooms, newspapers, and everything the web has to offer, from news aggregation to blogs, facebook to twitter, flickr accounts, everything g-mail and google. Can’t we have it all? The classic values of the newsroom, adapted to the amazing technologies at our fingertips. All the old-fashioned skills that made a reporter a good, solid reporter (shoe leather, making calls, ability to follow a story’s natural progression, from day one to months down the line, not getting drunk off of sources, writing stories rather than PR, recognizing conflicts of interest), plus everything web 2.0 (video, blogs, slideshows, link economies). That’s my dream. (Actually my real fantasy is people paying for content on the web, but hey, I’m allowed to dream. If people could switch from downloading music for free online to buying things from Itunes, it’s feasible. I swear.)
Speaking of old-fashioned reporters, my shoe leather is worn out, my hands are tired, and I can barely keep my eyes open.
Have a good night, folks!