I have over 15 hours of mushroom tape from this trip: sounds of mushrooms sizzling in a fryer, sounds of hands pulling up mushrooms from dirt, sounds of chopping mushrooms into tiny pieces for Rwandan stew, people talking about mushrooms entrepreneurship and what the shroom means to them… I could go on. I’d normally spend a couple of hours reporting a quirky food story like this. I’d get a handful of voices, a quote from an expert and whip it all together for a quick hit. But this past week, I’ve had the time to ask dozens of people why oyster mushrooms are popping up all over Rwanda and what it means. I had the time and resources to dig and dig and dig until I found special voices – like 26 year old Alain Christian, a self-described founding father of mushrooms in Rwanda – who carries a nuanced and fresh story of this corner of the world At the end of our last interview, Christian said, “The only journalists I know who come here ask about coffee and tea… Why do you come all the way here to ask about mushrooms? It’s a little strange, no?”
If all American journalists were given the time and resources to dig like this while reporting internationally, I imagine the stories we’d bring home would be more nuanced and richer than ones in our mainstream outlets, which seem to paint the same narrative of foreign countries overand over and over again.