The J-Source International Reporting Bureau spoke with CBC producer Stephanie Jenzer about the broadcaster’s Ebola coverage.

 

By Carey French, International Reporting Bureau Editor

Part of J-Source IRB’s mandate is to peer under the hood of important international stories to examine the wiring, nuts and bolts of coverage by Canadian news organizations. For the first of these “debriefs” we had plenty of choice, but the still-evolving Ebola pandemic was a no brainer. 

Marielle Torrefranca’s interview with Stephanie Jenzer, the veteran CBC producer who held the strings together on the broadcaster’s field assignment in Liberia, provides interesting insight into the “how to” of reporting on a scary but, until now, blessedly rare event.  

Jenzer, correspondent Adrienne Arsenault and their small, but tight-knit CBC crew, found themselves over-prepping for some aspects of working in the midst of a pandemic, while taking calculated risks in others. It is clear from the interview that while team members watched each other for signs of infection, the only plan should this have occurred would have been to hop the next plane out of the country.  

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Many of Jenzer’s observations recall reportage from war zones, including the sense of life-as-being- normal, even banal, that correspondents often encounter in such places. Life has to go on. But on this story there were significant, even disquieting differences. There’s a cachet, normally good for a few dinner invitations, that comes with the return from an interesting assignment in a foreign country.  Judging from the CBC’s Liberia experience, anyone covering the Ebola story should expect to wait for at least 21 days for those invitations to arrive. If then.