How we reported on HIV/AIDS in Kenya

July 10, 2008

Vickie Papageorge and Diana Vilares talk about the reporting they did about what Catholic Relief Services is doing in Kenya for orphans and vulnerable there.

Diana says:
Vickie and I wrote our story when Robert came to speak with our journalism class about Kenya’s state in relation to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and CRS’s efforts. We sat with pen, paper, tape recorder on and ears open.

We grabbed dinner with Robert after he spoke to our class and instead of going into the meal with a journalist’s attitude, we went in like “people.” He told us stories about his life in Kenya, his family and about children he’s met and lives CRS have changed with their services. The conversation was comfortable and realistic, which became the foundation for our story. That night, Vickie and I played back our audio and read over our notes about 50 times before we even came up with our opening paragraph.

We realized that what our story needed was a success story to bring some life into the matter. We wanted to show some proof while doing some humanitarian journalism. BUT, even though we had just finished a really great informative session with Robert, we were lacking one. What did we do? We called him. We called and we were upfront. We explained to him that in order for us to make this story worthwhile for readers, we were going to need a tale or two of people who’s lives were bettered by CRS’s efforts.

I can say that we got lucky when Robert walked through the door and was so personable and accommodating. He was like a reporter’s dream, because it’s not always so easy. Sometimes contacts don’t come through and you have to find other lifelines in order to finish in time and still promise quality work. It might sound a little crazy, but it’s doable.

My thoughts on Reporting:

** Researching is key. Before going into an interview with a source, Google their name (use, read up on their history so that you can not only impress them in conversation, but you might find yourself writing up a new set of questions that could be crucial for your story.**

Writing for a college audience is quite the task. On one hand you have a handful of people reading your work in hopes of catching a glimpse of a mistake or contradiction so they can quickly discredit your work. Then, there’s those that believe world issues belong on CNN and avoid the channel like the plague.

Students grab a newspaper on their way into class, sometimes just to have something to keep their mind occupied before (or during) class, and it is a student journalist’s job to give them something worth reading about.

So, how does a reporter do their job of finding out the “Who?, What?, Where?, When? and How?” and STILL manage to keep their readers’ attention span past the first paragraph?

Simple. Tell the story the way it’s meant to be told.

Sometimes the right quote that could totally piece together your story is staring you in the face and you don’t even know it until you’ve written a few drafts, but once you’ve found your angle and have at least 2-3 solid sources, you’re golden.

Children orphaned by AIDS create new lives

By: Vickie Papageorge and Diana Vilares

Posted: 11/29/07
At the tender age of 8, Morris Chapa’s parents lost the battle to HIV/AIDS, leaving three young boys behind in their native country of Kenya. Their uncle, who was given primary custody of the boys, betrayed his nephews by stripping them of the property their parents had left and chased the boys away.

Left with a feeling of abandonment, the boys fled to their aunt’s home in hopes of receiving care. Shortly after, Morris, along with one of the younger brothers, were tested positive for HIV/AIDS.

“Support a wish of some boy in Nairobi” to finish college and “become a responsible citizen. The plan of that child is kind of like a dream that is dead.” This was the plea of Robert Makunu, a native of Kenya and the deputy HIV unit manager of the faith-based organization, Catholic Relief Services. “His parents are not alive because of HIV.” Makunu visited Cabrini College in preparation for Cabrini’s observance of World Aids Day on Dec. 1.

Kenya has 37 million people and 1.5 million are children orphaned because of AIDS. They have lost both parents due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has been declared a national disaster in Kenya.

Read the whole article:

How I made the video on Iraqi refugees

July 9, 2008

Brittany Mitchell writes:

Video on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis.

Before I get into the technicalities, this project was the best thing that ever happened to me. When the project started rolling I thought to myself, “Oh, this is great, I love current events!” Little did I know that this project would change my life. I started getting to know people in foreign countries and realized that they’re just like me. I can’t even stress how important it is to be aware of the world around you.

I promise you, by creating a documentary you will learn more than any book can teach you. You will discover compassion and countless abilities you never knew you had.
So I highly suggest creating a multimedia piece on an important topic. It’ll strengthen your skills, knowledge and your heart as well.

Now for some details about how we worked on it. You won’t ever fully appreciate a film until to see what goes into producing one. The Iraqi Refugee documentary may be only 10 minutes long but over a hundred hours went into creating and recreating the project. There were times when I started working at noon but didn’t stop until five in the morning, there were times I cried and I’ll shamefully admit that there were even times that my lack of sleep caused huge mood swings that my boyfriend thankfully tolerated.

The first thing to remember before you begin a project is to schedule your time properly. Sit down with your group; put all planners on the table and set your first three meetings; make each one at least three hours long. While you’re scheduling your dates also find out each person’s strengths. Once you finish, end the meeting and treat yourself to a night out because all you’ll want to do later is finish the project that is practically engraved into your mind.

Ok, so the next meeting is crucial. Christine and I didn’t get a solid topic until three weeks after the project was assigned. So make it a point not to leave until you all agree on a topic, not a broad topic either. Pick a subtopic. I can’t even count the number of emails I received that asked for topic clarification. Don’t be like me and assume that the people you’re contacting will know exactly what you’re talking about.

A brief description of what your group plans to cover should be at least a paragraph long so that you have a basic outline for all your emails.

The professionalism of your emails is a huge determination on who will help you. Credentials are a must! If your school doesn’t have an award winning paper make sure you have some kind of creditability. Most people won’t give you the time of day if you just describe yourself as a college student doing a documentary for class.

Also remember that your contacts shouldn’t just be through emails. Talk to everyone about your project. You’ll never know who’ll be able to help and the more you talk about your topic the more you’ll know about it.

I know it’s definitely easier said than done but just keep in mind you shouldn’t finish your documentary in a week or two if it’s an important topic. It takes time to conduct interviews and you shouldn’t jump to do anything.

My suggestion is to spend the most time on your outline. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I would’ve saved if we just asked the questions in the order of an outline. It’s definitely better to have your guests answer the same question in different words rather than just having each person answer different questions. You can never have too many people answer the same question.

I had to completely discard a phone interview with a person in Washington D.C. due to horrible audio and if it weren’t for my other sources answering the question, I never would’ve been able to cover my whole outline.

When editing, always have your outline in front of you. Whether it’s a timeline or a storyboard, you need a visual. Don’t let your brain hold all your ideas, that’s what a computer’s for.

Organize the information the most you can. I had all my audio in one folder and the video in another. Then I made subfolders on each topic I wanted to cover. Once the media was cut I just dropped it into each category. Then it all disappeared.  Yes, you read right, it ALL disappeared. That’s all it took was a little tap to the table and my external hard drive was gone. So DEFINITELY back up all your work. You never know when someone’s foot will accidentally pull the USB cord.

I know it may seem some points are overly stressed but please take the advice. It will save you a lot of time.

Oh, and just so you know. The first few processes will most likely be repeated many times. Don’t worry though, it’s completely normal!

HIV/AIDS in Africa: you can report about one of the greatest challenges today

July 8, 2008

HIV/AIDS, along with malaria and TB, are three diseases that test the spirit of a continent. While few students are able to travel to Africa to report, by focusing on the work of Non-Governmental Organizations perhaps even one that has a connection to your community, you can tap into sources and do moving stories from your campus. [Read more]

Reporting about the Iraqi refugee crisis

July 8, 2008

The story about the Iraqi refugee crisis is a breaking story that is greatly under-reported in the commercial media. It is a major story you can do and bring attention to a major issue. [Read more]

How we did our audio documentary on HIV/AIDS

July 8, 2008

Kara Schneider, Jillian Smith, and Megan Pellegrino made an amazing audio documentary on HIV/AIDS, “Our Hands Are Not Tied.” Listen to it and then read how they did it. Click here to listen.



How I interviewed Iraqi students

July 7, 2008

Christine Graf tells about how she did interviews with two Iraqi students, other Iraqi refugee stories she’s done, and what her feelings are about her reporting on this issue.

Here’s what Christine had to say:

In her shoes: from Iraq to America

Living as a college student in Baghdad during the war

Christine Graf

“I am an Iraqi citizen and I had to leave my country because of the war,” an Iraqi college student studying in America said.

The war in Iraq started in 2003 when she was a 15-year-old high school student in Baghdad. (Loquitur is withholding her name because she has family still in Iraq.)

“We were just kids. We went to school and hung out with our friends afterwards. Life was carefree before the war, just like kids here in America.”

When it became clear that this war with America was going to begin, she described how people started to leave Baghdad because it was a main target. That is when she realized what the war was already beginning to create.

Read more:

Global food crisis reporting in the Washington Post

July 5, 2008

The Washington Post has committed itself to regular, in-depth reporting on the global food crisis. Its numerous stories have been exceptional.

Darfur: understanding its complexity

July 5, 2008

A key site for reliable background on Darfur is done by Eric Reeves. His blog is