#iSTANDfor: stories that touch people
By David Abel
My career as a reporter started in the streets of Mexico City, where I spent most days interviewing protesters who blocked the capital’s main boulevard at rush hour to rally against the nation’s poverty and corruption. Later, I moved to Cuba, where I was eventually detained by state security officials and deported after I had written stories about dissidents and others who were disenfranchised. Over the years, I have covered what was then Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II during the war over Kosovo, chronicled the rise of Hugo Chavez and the curtailing of free speech in Venezuela, and traveled from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Sea to write about the impact of climate change.
If there has been one thread through my career, one overarching goal as I have worked as a reporter and filmmaker, it has been this: to ask uncomfortable questions, those that cast light on the murk of human and institutional failings, ultimately seeking to give voice to the voiceless.
Milan Kundera, in his novel "Immortality," described what he called "The Eleventh Commandment," a right allowed to journalists in democratic countries, or what he called "the right to demand an answer to a question." He wrote: "The journalist is not merely the one who asks questions, but the one who has the sacred right to ask, to anyone about anything."
He called a question a "bridge of understanding, reaching out from one human being to another."
I’ve spent years as a reporter at The Boston Globe writing about the homeless, seeking answers to questions like: How was it that one ex-con left prison without anywhere better to sleep than beside his mother's grave? What caused cod to vanish in a place where fishermen used to say they were so plentiful that you could walk across the Atlantic on the backs of them? How does a family cope after a terrorist attack claims their 8-year-old son and severs the leg of their 7-year-old daughter?
More recently, I’ve been looking at the impact of climate change on communities from Barrow, Alaska, the continent’s northernmost city, to Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, one of its easternmost points. As a filmmaker, I have been asking questions about how it’s possible that America’s oldest fishery – Atlantic cod – could have been decimated to the point that they have become practically commercially extinct. A film I co-directed, “Sacred Cod,” which will be broadcast next spring by the Discovery Channel, looks at the impact of climate change and overfishing as a cause of the collapse of the historic cod fishery. Now, I’m now working on a new film that looks at the environmental degradation in the Everglades, and the impact of conservation efforts on the people who live there.
I stand for telling stories that touch people, expose inequities, and reveal something vital about our communities and ourselves.