What I’m Reading

June 16, 2021

Display of magazines and newspapers, in print and digital, along with a Kindle and a pocket notebook and pens on a desk. | © Florian Schoppmeier

This week’s What I’m Reading brings you two powerful and important pieces of journalism. They aren’t light reads, but they shine a light on two crises the world mustn’t ignore.

The Washington Post brings us to the American-Mexican border, where the migration crisis intensifies again.

And The National Geographic opens our eyes to a humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Migration: a crisis continues

Migration is both a political and a humanitarian topic. The debate surrounding migration is often emotional. And it all too often focuses on the visible consequences instead of the causes.

The Dividing Line is a wonderful interactive story that contrasts the political with the humanitarian side of migration in the U.S.

Michael Robinson Chavez and Mary Beth Sheridan, for The Washington Post, bring us a striking update of “the place where two worlds collide,” as the story’s lead text snippet describes it.

In the wake of again rising migration from Central America to the United States, the photographer Chavez spent nine days in the border region.

He documented the journey of people who are willing to risk their lives on a journey full of unknowns because their lives are at even greater risks at home.

The domestic risks they face range from violence, conflict, and persecution to natural disasters and a pandemic that has left many homeless and in stark poverty.

The Washington Post has produced a powerful multimedia presentation. The pictures are shown in large format with audio samples that enable us to hear directly from the people living this story. The dangers they face at home and on the road have more depth because we hear them in their own voices, supported by the intimate pictures of their journey and sorrows.

I love the contrast between the political and humanitarian spheres of migration. It’s a topic that’s going to stay with us. The causes of migration, as outlined in this story, haven’t stopped. Simply sending people that arrive at a border back isn’t solving the issue — the look at the shelter on the Mexican side in the later parts of this story shows as much.

The Dividing Line is important reporting on migration because it captures both the humanitarian aspects of a topic often discussed in a political context and highlights the need to include the causes of migration into the discussion. And it accomplishes this with great pictures and a convincing multimedia presentation that communicates this need effectively.

A Humanitarian Tragedy

The second read I’d like to send your way brings us to Ethiopia. A country of hope, for in recent years it had successfully risen against an oppressive government, ended a long border war with its neighbor Eritrea, and whose Prime Minister won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

This story shows Ethiopia as a country without hope, a country that is unable to stop a human catastrophe.

A grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia. ‘I never saw hell before, but now I have.’ is published by The National Geographic and reported by Lynsey Addario and Rachel Hartigan.

The history of this conflict is explained in the story. I hope you spend the time perusing the story itself, but here are a few pointers for orientation before I write a few lines about the pictures.

Before Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, came to power, the Tigray people controlled the government (Tigray is a region in northern Ethiopia, bordering Eritrea). Their repressive government was eventually toppled. But the movement remained strong in the Tigray region. When last year’s election was canceled because of the pandemic, the Tigray region held its election anyway. The conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray started to intensify.

On one side, there’s a combination of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amharan forces. On the other militias from Tigray. All sides face accusations of having committed atrocities.

Before you read further or visit the story itself, be aware: it’s a graphic, sad, and tragic crisis. The pictures provide visual evidence of the dire situation, and there’s no silver lining yet.

If you decide to read it, which I hope, for it’s a situation that needs the world’s attention, you’ll find a moving lead story from the cost of the conflict: a family that lost four of their six sons to a random military patrol on their farmland.

The civilian population is at risk from humans as much as from machinery. Besides executions, rape is common in this conflict. So are people who have lost everything because of bombings and/or battle severe burn wounds. Desperately needed aid supplies aren’t allowed to enter the region.

Addario’s pictures are brutally real and up close. They show the devastation and suffering. They are proof of the horrors going on there. It’s an important story, even though it’s difficult to look at. Her pictures unveil the human aspect of a political conflict that has forgotten about the innocent public.

There’s also a five-minute CNN video of Addario talking about her experiences reporting this story, which you might want to check out.

And that’s it for this week’s What I’m Reading post. I have another reading post next week. And the third and fourth episodes of my running video series Of Miles & Minutes are dropping soon.

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A photography, writing, and journalism blog

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Florian Schoppmeier

Florian Schoppmeier

photographer, writer, journalist

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