Roanoke Times reporter Beth Macy started the week putting some finishing touches on a long-term reporting project that we will publish next month, taking her usual hikes on Roanoke’s Mill Mountain and visiting Lexington to see a former colleague speak about his new book on companies’ abuses of the subprime mortgage market.
She’s ending it heading into the heart of the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Macy, a veteran of two decades at the newspaper, left Wednesday on a weeklong reporting trip in Haiti to follow up on the earlier stories we’ve published on Angel Missions Haiti, the Roanoke County-based Christian medical mission run by Vanessa Carpenter
Beth’s goal in visiting the poverty- and disaster-stricken Caribbean island is to capture how Vanessa, her staff, and international medical volunteers working with her have responded to the aftermath of January’s earthquake and to the current cholera outbreak. Next week, Beth will be teaming up with a photographer named Ron Haviv from Paris-based VII Photo Agency.
Beth hopes to get to a phone to be interviewed from Haiti by WVTF early next week, and the station hopes to air that report on public radio before Beth’s scheduled return to Roanoke on Nov. 17 (stay tuned to this space and to WVTF for more details). We intend to publish Beth’s stories and Ron’s photos and videos in the newspaper and on roanoke.com soon.
This trip and its financing are a bit of a new thing for The Roanoke Times and reflect some of the changes happening in our industry. We’ve sent journalists overseas to cover stories before, including trips to cover a Southwest County church’s mission trip to build a clinic in Nicaragua in 1999, and to Afghanistan to cover a Bedford-based National Guard unit’s role in the war in 2004.
But this time two nonprofit journalism foundations are footing the travel costs, the Nieman Foundation and the Dart Society. The Roanoke Times is paying for Beth’s time and some incidental costs for the trip. The foundations are using this trip as a pilot to pair a former Nieman Fellow (Beth, in 2009-10) with a former Dart Center Ochberg Fellow (Ron, in 2004) on an international reporting project.
Our latest update from Beth came late Thursday, when her original plans to follow a nurse in Port-au-Prince had been altered by the urgency of the cholera outbreak, which has already killed hundreds of Haitians. The United Nations called Vanessa Carpenter, requesting that she send a newly arrived team of doctors to a hard-hit area. Beth planned to board a helicopter Friday morning with that international team of doctors to fly to St. Louis de Nord on the North Coast, where there is a concentration of more than 200 cholera victims and few doctors to treat them.
As Beth put it in her late-Thursday night note home, “Talk about not knowing what’s going to be on your to-do list today!”
– Brian Kelley, metro editor