Just over half way through our trip…

Just over half way through our trip and stories are starting to take shape — for everyone it seems like the anxiety of the first few days of a reporting trip in a new location (full of the usual doubts…. “are the stories I thought I was doing even possible? Will this come together? Can I balance it with the rest of the group’s needs?”) are fading as we gain momentum behind our stories and find that some of them have led to entirely new stories.

In the above (iPhone) photo, peacekeepers on a UN “rapid response team” prepare to patrol downtown Bangui, following a deadly weekend in the capital, involving a grenade attack and reprisal killings.

I’m a TV correspondent and print reporter and I love covering breaking news and politics but equally, really value these IWMF reporting trips for giving me an opportunity to shift into another reporting mode, to step out of the rush of news-of-day coverage and focus on reporting with more depth. While our days our packed, in a way I’m finding this trips has allowed me to slow down and dig in a bit more on stories. So far, I have filed some short TV news pieces — on beefed-up UN patrols in Bangui and an interview with the force commander of MINUSCA (the UN peacekeeping mission here) and a print story on the renewal of the MINUSCA mandate.

I was able to embed on a MINUSCA night patrol early in the trip, which was great insight into their activity on the ground and also gave me a chance to talk to people in town, in a relaxed setting at night, about their complex feelings about the mission here. Photog Adrienne Surprenant took some great pictures of the patrol too.

Since my last trip with IWMF — to DRC in 2015 — I have spent two years covering the region extensively. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to do so and I really try to link my experiences in different countries to try to share a better understanding of regional dynamics. Hopefully that will come through in some of my stories. Beyond that, it was just fun to practice my few Kirundi (Burundi’s national language) phrases with a staffer at the UN mission the other day! To that end, I’m going to be focusing the next few days on reporting a story about the some regional contributors to peacekeeping troops here and collaborating with several other fellows on some multimedia features. Looking forward to getting into it!

-Julia Steers