Having spent four days immersed in the science and politics of lung disease, I’ve begun to appreciate the difficulty of reporting on it. The stories are seldom obvious, and often hard to tell. That’s why the awards presented this week to three National Press Foundation fellows are so important. Charles Mpaka of Malawi, Carlos Fioravanti of Brazil, and Neway Tsegaye of Ethiopia won first, second and third place, respectively, in an annual contest called the Stop TB Partnership Award for Excellence in Reporting on Tuberculosis, sponsored by the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership. Links to their stories are here. How did they do it?
Writing in Amharic, Tsegaye tells the stories of three people with TB, including 11-year-old Meseret, who had a form of the disease outside the lungs that made it hard for her to walk. After taking her daughter to a traditional healer and a holy water site, Shitu Kebede finally carried the girl on her back to a regional hospital, where Meseret got proper treatment and has begun to recover.Mpaka focuses on a nurse working in the TB ward at Chiradzulu District Hospital, and uses her experience as a springboard to illustrate and explain women’s greater risk of contracting and dying of TB in Malawi.
Fioravanti, a magazine writer, crafted a wide-ranging look at Brazil’s TB problem, pegged to the release of two studies, including one on a strain of Tb dubbed RD-Rio, because it was discovered in Rio de Janeiro.
In each case, the reporters shed a compelling light on a dark disease in which change is incremental and the least powerful are most at risk.
They discussed their reporting with the rest of their class of NPF's Journalist-to-Journalist fellows, and sparked a good discussion on issues including how to work with your editor; using anonymous sources to save them from stigma; and how to get the science right. The journalists are here covering the 40th Union World Conference on Lung Health, in Cancun.
-- Linda Topping Streitfeld