Friday, February 12, 2010

USA Today Reporter Stops at Nothing to Deliver the Story of the Destruction in Haiti


MANHATTAN— The image of a woman lying dead on the floor of a nursing school in a Port Au Prince hospital in Haiti still haunts USA Today reporter Marisol Bello.

“I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face,” Bello said. “After I saw her, I just backed out of the room.”
Bello, 38, is a national desk general assignment reporter for USA Today and covers disasters and major breaking news, so it wasn’t unexpected when her boss came to ask her to cover the earthquake in Haiti, which killed around 230,000 people and devastated the city.

“People like to tell me that when they see me coming, they know something bad has happened,” Bello said.

She left her home in Washington DC the day after the earthquake.

Bello connected with the world relief agency World Vision and imbedded with them. Their first stop was to help give aid at what was considered to be one of the best hospitals in the city.

When they entered the nursing school wing of the hospital, where she came across the woman on the ground, she described it as eerily quiet in comparison to the rest of the city, where the streets were filled with screaming survivors and piles of bodies. In the midst of it all, Bello stopped to remember she had a job to do—report the stories.

“Feeling it wasn’t where I was at that moment,” Bello said. “I was trying to find the best method to tell the stories around me.”

Reporters in Haiti were working around the clock to get as much information as they could to send back home. Stories weren’t hard to find and people were more than willing to share their experiences with journalists. But problems arose when it came time to send stories back since Internet connection was about as scarce as food.

“Imagine if you didn’t have a working computer or email,” Bello said. “One time I typed an entire story from my blackberry, which wasn’t easy.”

Bello managed to get all her stories back to her editors and stayed even longer than she originally expected.

“Some of the things I’d seen were so daunting,” Bello said. “But I figured I’m here; I have to tell these stories.”

New York University journalism graduate student, Lauren Gerber, spoke of the dedication Bello shows for her job.

“She went through atrocious things that even some really resilient reporters might not be able to handle,” Gerber said. “She wanted the story to help the people.”

Bello explained that seeing so much death and destruction eventually wore on her brain and she had an emotional breakdown during her reporting trip in Haiti.

“I don’t know how you could see those images and not get emotional,” Gerber said. “That emotion is what really drives the story.”

Despite the challenges she faced in Haiti, Bello ended with a positive result.

“It was the single most amazing story I’ve ever covered.”