It’s definitely safe to say internships in Africa aren’t just about getting coffee and making copies. During my trip to Zambia, I will be interning with MUVI Television in Lusaka twice a week. MUVI TV is Zambia’s only privately owned television news station and serves as one of the few government “watchdogs.”
I’ve already spent my first week with MUVI and it’s been one helluva ride. On my first day, MUVI was covering one of the biggest government scandals to hit Zambia. Former Labor and Social Services Minister Austin Liato apparently buried 2.1 billion kwacha (approx. 410,000 USD) in concrete underneath his house. Someone tipped the police off and the Zambian media (including me!) waited the ENTIRE day for Liato to turn himself in. And when I say the entire day, I mean I sat inside of a car from 9 am until 5 pm outside of Liato’s house. Liato was suppose to show up to his house to be interrogated by police between 9 and 10 o’clock but kept us all waiting…on the side of the road…in the hot African sun…for eight hours. The media weren’t allowed inside his gated house and the only thing happening was Liato turning himself in – no interviews or anything. So what exactly were we the media waiting eight hours for? Just a shot of him walking into and out of the house.
Needless to say, my first internship day wasn’t the most exciting but I found it fascinating that the media waited that long just for a shot of Liato walking into his home. And every news organization had multiple people there – whereas in the U.S. a station might send one cameraman, if any, for that two-second shot. I also found it interesting how nice and cooperative the reporters were towards each other. It’s a dog eat dog world between news outlets in the U.S. but in Zambia reporters actually help each other out. If a reporter from The Daily Mail gets a tip, he or she will call a friend at MUVI to let them know. And as we were waiting throughout the day for Liato, the reporters joked around with one another (many of them are close friends just working for different stations) and someone would go on a food/drink run for the whole media gang. It’s anything but the hostile environment you might find at a press gathering in the States.
My second day at MUVI delivered a little more action. I rode out in the field with two reporters and two cameramen who alternated each story we covered. We went from a press conference at the United States embassy to Zambian government workers protesting wages to a dump site being shut down to a man whose son took his home away from him. It was a lot of driving time but I probably saw more of Lusaka in those 6 hours than I will see the rest of this trip. I went from standing on U.S. soil in an air-conditioned building to being engulfed in flies, garbage, and the odor of a dumping wasteland. I saw every aspect of life there was to see in Lusaka from privileged government officials to people picking through trash to survive.
I feel extremely lucky to be doing what I’m doing in Zambia – how many people can say they’ve walked the neighborhoods of an African city and actually talked to the people and really listened to their stories? And if that weren’t enough, MUVI TV has already aired one of my stories on its evening news.
I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will bring and I know as long as I’m with MUVI that I’m bound to uncover a part of Africa I didn’t know existed.