What would you have chosen to do as a journalist in this situation? Because this case study is intended primarily as a teaching resource, a password is required to view the epilogue. The purpose is to encourage readers to pause and think about how they would resolve the difficulty, before learning how the journalist(s) involved […]
After having convinced her mother that it was somewhat safe to travel to an Ebola zone, Yang eased her own mind. But, two days before she was scheduled to leave, an unexpected announcement caused the doubts to creep in again. On July 31, 2014, Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, declared a national state of emergency. […]
On July 26, 2014, Jennifer Yang went on vacation to a cottage with her family who was visiting from Alberta. Yang received a call from McAuley, giving her the official go ahead from the Toronto Star. If Yang chose to go to Sierra Leone, the Star would support her decision. Ultimately, it was her decision to make.
At first, her parents were excited for her, but at the time, they didn’t know how severe the outbreak was in Sierra Leone.
Soon after they returned home from the cottage, Yang received a call from her parents. They were worried about her falling ill and asked her not to travel to West Africa. Yang hadn’t decided whether she was going or not, and her parents’ fears only increased her self-doubt. The following is a Facebook conversation between Yang and her mother on July 30, 2014:
This outbreak is starting get serious, are you sure you need to go?
Don’t worry mom. It is very easy to protect yourself. It cannot be spread by people without symptoms, so staying away from sick people is the important thing. Also, it is not spread by air, only by contact with bodily fluids. If I don’t get any blood, sweat, saliva, urine, feces on me, I am safe.
(And even if I get it on me, it would have to enter my bloodstream or my mouth/eyes).
Please be extra careful, Australia has banned travelling to West Africa. and I heard on the radio from CBC someone suggesting people who come back from West Africa should quarantine for 21 days, if this is the case your California trip will be affected.
LISTEN TO JENNIFER YANG TALK ABOUT HER PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE:
Jennifer Yang’s decision would not only affect her. As she considered her options, she consulted her live-in boyfriend of three years, the Star‘s deputy national editor, Matt Carter. Although he would support whatever decision she made, they needed to discuss whether she should return home after the trip, or isolate herself for 21 days. “The last thing I would want was to infect my […]
Contemplating the possibility of her own trip, Jennifer Yang sought guidance from the Red Cross and other aid organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Claudia Blume, press officer for MSF Canada, says a big part of the organization’s mission is to support journalists going into the field to report on what they’re witnessing firsthand. In this case, MSF […]
Before green-lighting Yang’s trip, Lynn McAuley had to consult with managing editor Jane Davenport — in part to verify whether the Star would face extra insurance costs for an assignment in the hot zone. Fortunately, no premium was necessary at the moment. Most news organizations’ insurance policies cover hazards faced by reporters abroad, but additional premiums are sometimes needed for assignments in particularly hazardous areas, […]
After assuring herself of support from the aid organizations, Yang approached foreign editor Lynn McAuley with a thoroughly researched pitch. Initially, McAuley had a few major questions: how would Yang’s stories add something new to the ongoing Ebola conversation? And, were the potential health risks manageable? If so, were they worth it? Until then, Yang had relied on official reports, […]
One of the most common misconceptions of Ebola is how it is transmitted. Ebola can only be transferred through bodily fluids like saliva, sweat, diarrhea, vomit and blood. According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these fluids need to come into direct contact with a mucus membrane (like a person’s eyes, […]
On June 2014, the Toronto Star’s global health reporter, Jennifer Yang, learned that 40 percent of the confirmed Ebola cases were in Sierra Leone. She thought it was her professional duty to report directly from the most severe Ebola zone. However, the risks of reporting in the midst of a rapidly spreading, highly infectious disease may […]
The worst Ebola outbreak to date began in December 2013, in the remote village of Guéckédou, Guinea. By March 31, 2014, the disease had already killed 78 people in Guinea and was now spreading to the neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Michelle Van Herp, an MSF epidemiologist in Guéckédou, said that the virus had been […]