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2012 Daniel Pearl Intern: Kathleen Chaykowski

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Kathleen Chaykowski

The editor-in-chief of The Stanford Daily has been chosen as the 2012 Daniel Pearl Memorial Journalism Intern.

Kathleen Chaykowski is a junior working toward a degree in English. She will work in the Johannesburg bureau of The Wall Street Journal this spring.

The internship was established to commemorate the work and ideals of Pearl, a Stanford graduate and Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

In an essay written as part of the application process, Chaykowski noted that Daniel Pearl’s “attention to the ambiguity and surprises he encountered yielded stories that delve far beyond the black and white. It is the gray — the small, human moments, the contradictions — that I aspire to capture through my own reporting.”

Chaykowski is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and previously had internships at the Mail & Guardian in South Africa and the Chautauquan Daily in New York. She has been a member of the Stanford Daily staff since before classes started her freshman year.

A committee of Communication Department faculty members evaluated applicants for the internship. The final decision was made by The Wall Street Journal.

Pearl, a 1985 graduate of Stanford’s Department of Communication, was kidnapped in Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002, while working on a story retracing the steps of “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. A month later, on Feb. 21, his captors released a videotape of his slaying. He was 38.

Writing in Shades of Gray

By Kathleen Chaykowski

Life in Kwa Thema, a rural, black township outside of Johannesburg, seems to be perpetually centered around a few fundamental needs: gaining access to power and clean water and combating HIV/AIDS and unemployment, which is sometimes as high as 70 percent. But one day, mothers in Kwa Thema rallied the community together for a different cause.

On a bright, winter afternoon, mothers led community members and LGBTQ rights activists in song and dance through the streets of their township: “Noxolo is not sleeping,” they chanted again and again. They were referring to the death of a 24-year-old mother and lesbian activist, the latest victim in a series of brutal, “corrective rapes” and murders, which were occurring across South Africa. The march traversed the very streets Noxolo used to walk, where stray goats nibbled at litter and old shoes and young boys played soccer.

I covered the rally with a multimedia editor from the Mail & Guardian, a South African newspaper for which I reported for several months in 2011. Moving briskly with a microphone in one hand and a camera stand and notebook in the other, I helped capture interviews and footage of powerful moments, such as the victim’s six year-old daughter holding a sign reading, “Who killed Noxolo?” and interviews with local police, who had yet to launch any formal investigation of the crime. Even though LGBTQ-identifying youth said they felt unsafe in Kwa Thema, many of the protestors decked themselves out in eyeliner, blush and their boldest, brightest garments for the march as if to bravely say that they should not have to fear for their lives because of their sexuality.

In a tribute to her late husband, Daniel, Mariane Pearl wrote that he had an “affection for the unfamiliar in searching for the middle ground,” a gift at telling stories through the shades of gray. It was Pearl’s art of engaging with ordinary people and probing their seemingly ordinary stories that enabled him to craft a fuller, more complex truth.

Whether he was exploring how violence in the Balkans led to fragile ethnic divides, or the relationship between access to doctors and abuse within Indian and American prescription drug industries, Pearl’s attention to the ambiguity and surprises he encountered yielded stories that delve far beyond the black and white.

It is the gray – the small, human moments, the contradictions – that I aspire to capture through my own reporting: the people of Kwa Thema speaking out against human rights abuse while they struggle to survive; the devastation of millions of Zimbabweans who tragically seek refuge in a country that is unable to serve its own citizens; a nation cherished as a democratic miracle making strides on a censorship bill before my eyes.

Whether I am meeting foreign refugees, women creating art for empowerment after violence, or the Congolese man who was nearly killed in South Africa’s 2008 xenophobic attacks, I carry with me a passion for learning from strangers and seeking voices that might otherwise go unheard.

It is my dream to become a foreign correspondent and continue writing stories rooted in the struggles and aspirations of everyday people, forgotten narratives from seemingly forgotten lands. I would be greatly honored to embrace this aspect of Daniel Pearl’s work through reporting for The Wall Street Journal.