Dec, 2020 back to May, 2011: (nothing)
Dickens and Shakespeare had it easy. In the real world good guys are always flawed, bad guys are always good people, winners are always missing something and victims are always trying to improve their situations. No quantity of metaphors and adjectives can describe what somebody truly feels.
The saddest moments in journalism come when I remember my sources are human beings.
Apr, 2011 back to Sep, 2010: (nothing)
Two years ago on this blog, I made a victim out of a friend.
One week later, the employers hired a replacement. They would never see their old house girl again.
She is beyond rescue. No well-meaning person can do anything about her situation. In the darkest parts of our hearts, for all our pride of our notions of feminism and gender equality and statistics, we know this. And in the darkest part of your heart, you already know all the stories and statistics and words I can muster.
Pendo, this is your eulogy: more respect than most women ever receive in Africa.
Actually, they saw her just last week. And so did I. A few weeks after I wrote my story about her being "abducted" by family, Pendo returned to Dar es Salaam and started sewing dresses for a living. Currently she's unemployed and job-hunting, but her smile is wider than ever.
Thursday night, twelve university students competed to become Tanzania's Miss Higher Learning.
Number 12 was absent: I suspect she lost her nerve. This was an important event, after all: these competitors, averaging 21 years of age, already placed in their respective universities' beauty pageants. The three winners of the Miss Higher Learning contest would move on to compete with winners from other pageants for the title of Miss Tanzania.
There were plenty of cameras.
The Internet is a gold mine of information. But if you write that cliché on your web page, you dilute my "gold mine" search results.
A "gold mine" is a place where miners extract gold from the ground.
Most of Google's top search results for "literally" point to suggestions that you avoid the word, even if you mean it.
Everybody has the habit of writing clichés, just as everybody naturally spends more time choosing adjectives and adverbs than the nouns and verbs they adorn.
I'm (occasionally) helping a Tanzanian organization called Femina. Femina creates and distributes magazines about gender, sexuality and HIV.
My job is to help make sure those magazines get to their intended readers.
Femina's flagship publication, Fema, is Tanzania's most popular magazine, probably because it's donor-funded and free. Femina distributes hundreds of thousands of copies of Fema to schools across the country, and an independent study recently confirmed Femina's calculation that on average, 15 people read each copy.
As I was interviewing a refugee in a camp about his inspiring story, an outsider came to make sure I was telling it properly.
"You're getting how wretched people are here, right?" he asked.
Refugees play volleyball instead of being wretched.
The outsider, who is not a refugee, would benefit politically if I wrote a story about wretchedness. He'd hold my story up high, proclaiming, "look! even a Westerner wrote that these people are wretched!" and if that helped him achieve his ends ... he'd get richer.
Peter Erlinder presented his defense with his Kenyan lawyers in High Court on Monday.
As a guest and journalist in Rwanda, I've been trying to find an expert on the Erlinder case who can explain to the world what's going on in court.
There may be such an expert, but I don't know who it is. So here's what I know, having attended Erlinder's hearings.
What is Peter Erlinder's crime?
If you know the president is coming, there are two ways to get his picture:
- Buy an expensive telephoto lens
- Run around like crazy
I'm a very nascent photo-journalist, so I can't do either very well. But I worked on the latter at today's gorilla-naming ceremony.
(Or, yes, you can just walk up to Don Cheadle and ask for his picture. Some Japanese guests and all my housemates did that. But those pictures just aren't as interesting to me.)
Bitenga is about as remote a village as you can find in Rwanda, and I needed to be in Kigali as quickly as possible.
Five hours in minibuses and two hours of uphill walking had gotten me here, but as a journalist I had failed. The village next door had been displaced into Bitenga to make way for trees and chimpanzees, but I couldn't report on it: as I walked towards the villagers' new homes, I was firmly redirected to an official's bedroom, where the dozing authority called his faraway boss and told me I couldn't interview anybody without permission.
Off the record, the village is a journalistic treasure. There are winners and losers, but nobody dares put a name next to a complaint for fear of making life worse. Several people told me, "come back with permission and I'll tell you all about it."
These new homes shelter untold stories. It's a pity I couldn't tell them.