December 15, 2009

by Michelle Mazzeo

I came to Uganda with EDGE Project‐-a group from the University of Wisconsin‐ Madison that enables students to carry out detailed research with professors on campus and subsequently implement small projects in partner communities in the developing world. When I arrived at Lingira Island in the middle of Lake Victoria, I had no idea that I would be working full‐time as a soccer coach to a group of young ladies.

Before the soccer team began, I spent over a month just getting to know the Lingira island community. I found that most people spoke broken English, if any, and had preconceived notions about why I chose to come to their small and remote island. It was difficult to get to know people well in such a short period of time. However, the rapport I built simply from trying helped me later when I decided to report on this story. One evening I invited myself to play soccer with some of the men from the island. After only a short period of time, I found the men and boys were shocked that I was able to kick the ball in the right direction and I was famous within a matter of hours.

Of course, all this attention just for playing some soccer did not sit right with me. Girls should be encouraged to play the beautiful game just as boys are. Once I did some background research with the schoolteachers and other community members, I discovered that girls were much too busy cleaning, cooking, gardening, tending to children and caring for their family members to enjoy a refreshing and fun game of soccer. I also learned that many of the girls engaged in prostitution, premature sexual relationships or were victims of rape, which is extremely common in the community.

I immediately began to work with a young native of the island, Tony, to put together the first girls soccer team. Of course, the team was a complete novelty to the island and watching it fall into place was an inspiration to everyone. However, working with young, vulnerable girls in a marginalized community such as this one, requires a lot of care and close monitoring. I depended almost exclusively on the male coaches to translate when I wanted to communicate with the girls about filming them. If I were to document a story like this again, I would try harder to find a woman as a translator. In general, when reporting on a situation that challenges social norms of girls and women, asking a woman to translate is probably a good idea.

I would also make my goals and objectives in documenting a story like this extremely clear to the participants and community, all of whom are already keeping a close eye on the activities of any outsider. The more the locals understand your purpose, the more likely they will be to help move along your project.

How reporting opened my eyes

April 26, 2009

Kara Schneider writes: How I reported the story –Our Hands Are Not Tied

In December of 2007, Megan and Jillian, my two partners, came to me in a burst of excitement and explained that they had this great topic for our radio documentary for the next semester. They continued by saying they already had interviews lined up. I thought, “Awesome, you guys can do the talking, I’ll just sit back and when it comes my turn to edit the audio-I’m there.” Little did I know that as I shook my head up and down, my entire life would change because of another school project.

Let me take you back a little before December. The first interview, Megan and Jill conducted without me because I wasn’t involved in the project yet.  Robert Makunu, a Catholic Relief Services Staff Member of Kenya, sat with Megan and Jill and a few others from our school newspaper, The Loquitur, and was questioned about children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya.

Once the interview was completed and Jill and Meg were set on this topic, I came on board. We had our next interview set up for us- Ken Hackett, The President of Catholic Relief Services and Joan Neal who, was the time, was the Vice President of United States Affairs for CRS.

I’m going to have to give you a little bit of background about me before I go any further. Up until that point, I was completely intimidated by news- don’t ask me why, I just was. There was something about learning what was going on in the world that I thought was just not for me. However, this was around the time that I stepped out of the bubble around myself and took a little peek at the world around me.

We decided it to be a good idea to learn about AIDS in Africa, since that’s what our topic was about.  Together, we learned about PEPFAR, The Presidential Emergency for Aids Relief and that it was a great program that offered 30 billion dollars over the next five years to AIDS relief in Africa. We agreed that PEPFAR would be the basis of our interview with Ken Hackett.

With Ken Hackett came Joan Neal, the Vice President of U.S. Operations, with whom we interviewed. They were great interviews because they fed off of each other and we were able to use them a lot back to back in our documentary.

It was made clear in Hackett’s speech on Cabrini Founder’s Day that we were doing extraordinary things at Cabrini by not only being so curious about our topic and really knowing the issues at hand, but by wanting to do something about it. We knew we wanted to fix the problems we were learning about, but we didn’t really know how to. After we thought about what Hackett said, Jill, Meg and I, decided okay “that’s it, we are going to switch our documentary around and switch it to advocacy!” What others can do to help the issues we are learning about right now.

As the semester continued, the interviews grew more intense. Through Catholic Relief Services, we contacted Bridget Chisenga of Zambia. Ken and Joan told Bridget’s story to us when we interviewed them. As soon as they left we knew we had to get in contact with Bridget. We obviously didn’t care what it took to get an interview with Bridget because we were at the studio pressing that record button at 5 am when we had just gotten to bed after a long night of editing.

In April, my Working for Social Justice class and I went lobbying in Washington DC to our Senators. There, we spoke about our concerns for the Farm Bill and how we would like to urge our senators to help pass it. Through this process, I learned that our government actually listens to us. I feel that my generation has become so stubborn in saying and believing that our lawmakers don’t care about what we have to say or what our opinions are because they feel that our government has failed them. Well, let me tell you that they do care and they do want to listen to us. It’s their job! How could they not care what we have to say? Writing letters to your Congressmen or Senators will make a difference, and I believe that our class together did make a difference.

We then got in contact with Ryan Keith, Founder of Forgotten Voices and Nicolas Demey, Communications Supervisor of The Global Fund.  These two interviews took us to that next level of advocacy and gave us examples of local people helping global issues to global foundations helping local people.

Once we collected all of the interviews, we locked ourselves in the edit bay with some water, canned food, and a change of clothes, and edited our documentary until it was complete. Well, it was never really completed. We always wanted to change something because all three of us are perfectionists.

We just finally came to the conclusion that it was time to get our voices heard. We wanted to change the world and this is how we were supposed to do it. We had to stop being perfectionists and get our work out there because we knew that if we believed in something so passionately, that there are others that believe in it too.

Our mission, that we believe we completed, was to inform and educate others on HIV/AIDS in underdeveloped countries and what American college students can do to help. I believe that we did this by exploring diverse situations and interview various people that were helping communities in different ways.

I thank God everyday for the chance that I had that absolutely changed my life into working for the common good. People are out there, and we need to listen to their voices and reach out to them in ways that you can because I know that our hands are not tied.

An Iraqi student living in the United States – How I Wrote the Story

August 19, 2008

Christine Graf writes:

Reporting on social justice issues makes the process of interviewing and writing a story even more important. Especially for college students who can use social justice issues to link their college, no matter how big or small, to the world. The value this holds is that we are the future generation of reporters and the world can not change unless the general public is aware of its struggles from Africa to the Middle East and back to the United States – there are many hardships that need addressing – here is how I did it.

The first step is educating yourself about the world and what exactly is happening in even the smallest of places. I did this by taking a course offered at my college entitled Working for Global Solidarity. In that class I listened to a speaker from Catholic Relief Services who had just visited Iraqis who have been displace in other countries due to the effects of war and violence.

Honestly, I never thought about how the innocent Iraqi civilians were affected by the war. Interested in learning more – a project my group was assigned was on refugees and peace-building. We decided we would investigate the refugee crisis in Iraq and highlight what war was doing to Iraqi people who in reality were not that much different then us and our families.

My professor told me about an Iraqi student at another college nearby who was speaking about her experience living in Baghdad during the war. I contacted her via e-mail and she was more than willing to speak with me one-on-one.

We met a few times and did a couple informal interviews of which I always recorded with my tape recorded because really the best quotes and stories come out when you are just having a casual conversation with someone person to person – stories and deadlines aside.

There was so much information I had gotten from the three interviews I did with this student that my biggest challenge was sorting through it all and choosing which experiences I wanted to share in my article. The Iraqi student had witnessed so much violence and felt so much fear in her 20 years of life. I wanted to do the story justice and really show people the effects this war had on students not difference than us.

Honestly – I wanted to use it all. My story could have been six pages but that was not an option so I thought very carefully about what I really wanted people to know most. I wanted readers to feel what it was like to live in Baghdad during this war and how it has ruined the lives of its civilians who have done nothing wrong.

Sorting through pages of notes and quotes – it was almost like a puzzle putting it all together. It is important to write your article in a story telling way – so that people can not only learn about these issues but almost feel the hardship of the people affected by the issue. A personal angle is always best if it is available.

If you are interested in doing some sort of social justice story – but have trouble finding an angle see if you can highlight a student or organization within your school that have done social justice work. Even a class that focuses on international development or social justice could give you some sort of starting point.

Overall, reporting on social justice issues is very rewarding. You are the voice of the people who have none. You are not only learning about things that might not ever cross your mind otherwise – but you are sharing the information with others to support change. Not everything is fair in life – but everyone deserves a chance at it and not everyone gets that chance. It is up to us as journalist to inform people that these issues are going on and that together we can make a difference.

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!

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: