Journalists share unique angles on Ebola

Journalists share unique angles on Ebola

Molly Schneider/Guilfordian

Brian Castner and Cheryl Hatch flew to Liberia with two plane tickets and an idea: to report on United States military action in response to Ebola in Liberia.

In addition to being a journalist and a military veteran, Castner is the author of “The Long Walk.” Hatch is a photojournalist, a documentary photographer and a visiting assistant professor of journalism at Allegheny College.

On Thursday, March 26, the duo came to Guilford College to give a presentation titled “Fighting Ebola in Liberia.”

“We noticed that the military aspect of the (Ebola crisis) was not being covered,” said Castner. “President Obama announced in September that the 101st Airborne Division was going to fight Ebola … and we had some really basic questions (that weren’t being answered by the media).”

Though they had originally planned to report on military action, once they arrived in Liberia, the focus of their story shifted.

“The initial idea was to show the U.S. military and the humanitarian effort, but by the time we got there, they had finished most of that work,” said Hatch. “For me, the story I discovered was about leaving behind a year that was about death, suffering, illness and sorrow and crossing over to 2015.

“They were getting ready to open schools, the number of cases were going down, and there were a lot of positive signs that things were moving in a positive direction.”

The presentation showed a more personal perspective on the Ebola outbreak not normally covered in mainstream media.

“When you heard about Ebola, you heard about statistics,” said sophomore Naari Honor. “It was more about data and numbers, almost clinical, but when you heard the journalists talk, you got more of the story.”

Castner and Hatch also spoke on their own experiences as journalists reporting in Liberia.

“I liked hearing them tell their side of their story and their experience,” said Honor. “I liked the rawness of the talk. Their experiences are not something you hear on a regular basis. It was the story behind a story.”

The presenters gave insight and advice to Guilford’s own aspiring journalists.

“I liked learning about the process of conducting a journalistic report,” said senior Taylor Hallett. “(Speaking and interacting with them) is important to me because I’ll be doing research next year on a Pulitzer event.”

Each year, the Pulitzer Center sponsors events like this one, bringing distinguished journalists to speak on their experiences.

“In every case, the journalists have talked to students and given them some important tips about journalism as a career,” said Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Ty Buckner. “Our students have connected with these journalists and have benefited from their expertise long after these journalists leave Guilford.”

In addition to giving a presentation to the public, Castner and Hatch spoke to students in an ENGL 282 Journalism class about reporting.

For more information about Castner and Hatch’s project on Ebola, scan the QR code below.