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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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John Yemma: ‘It is good journalistic practice to follow up on lives interrupted’

John Yemma: ‘It is good journalistic practice to follow up on lives interrupted’

Flooded boat on coast after tsunami, Singkil, Indonesia, Southeast Asia |  Stock image



The tsunami in Indonesia generated widespread media attention when it occurred 10 years ago. We heard and saw stories about loss, tragedy, and devastation from a natural disaster that killed upwards of 200,000 people. But as time passed, media coverage naturally faded. Many stories about resilience, renewal, and recovery were overlooked and left untold.

The Christian Science Monitor has done a good job consistently covering the story. A year after the tsunami, photographer Andy Nelson and correspondent Scott Baldauf profiled the survivors. Two years after, Nelson and correspondent Simon Montlake visited Indonesia to cover the rebuilding efforts.

For the 10-year anniversary, photographer Ann Hermes and Montlake, who is now the Monitor’s international editor, tracked down some of the same people they interviewed years ago to see where they are now. The resulting story, “Tsunami 10 years after: How Indonesia built back” features two families who “defied disaster” and found ways to rebuild their lives. It also looks at how Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, has improved and changed for the better. The story — a good example of a restorative narrative — moves beyond what happened to show what’s possible.

John Yemma, the Christian Science Monitor’s former head editor, wrote a compelling editorial about the paper’s reporting on the tsunami’s aftermath. In his piece, Yemma explains the importance of telling stories that offer up hope after tragedy. He also makes the point that people are more than the tragedies that befall them.

“Rebuilding – for an individual or a community – is never easy. Rubble must be removed, lost friends mourned, despair conquered,” Yemma writes. “The motivation to go forward must be harnessed. History is heavy with setbacks and tears. On a planet of 7 billion, the ground is likely again to heave, pain and hurt to recur. But history’s arc bends toward progress. “Per aspera ad astra” is a sentiment older than the Latin language and as true for individuals as for nations.”

Yemma goes on to make this poignant remark:

“Although people are sometimes victims, lives are more than a moment. That’s why it is good journalistic practice to follow up on lives interrupted and hear laughter and hope in survivors’ voices. After adversity, the skies clear. The stars never left.”

At ivoh, we’re encouraging journalists and media makers of all kinds to follow up on lives interrupted and tell more restorative narratives. We believe these narratives have the potential to show people and communities what it means to be resilient.

We liked Yemma’s quote so much that we decided to turn it into an image. Feel free to share it with others via email and social media.


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