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Home > Publications > Quill > Winner: Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Winner: Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

“Zimbabwe’s Pain”

Jim Poyser

I first stumble across Junica Dube’s story while writing an article about hospitals, which turns out to mean writing about death. It’s just a few days after the baby died; Junica is still in the hospital, too traumatized to speak. The baby’s aunt, Daisy, is the first to lay out the shards of the story.

Daisy speaks of a different kind of heroism than that celebrated so grandiosely in Heroes’ Acres: the struggle, in a country where nothing works, just to give birth and to be born.

“To me, they are the real heroes,” she says proudly, and suddenly my notebook is swimming in a blur of tears. I want to ask another question, but no words come.

According to Managing Editor John Arthur, Los Angeles Times correspondent Robyn Dixon, throughout 2007, “left her computer at home … she conducted interviews in darkened rooms, far from public view, then hid her notes in maps and trouser legs.”

Dixon added that she “queued up in a breadline, drove the roads picking up hitchhikers to get their stories of life in Zimbabwe, went deep into rural areas (where reporting is most risky) to write about hunger, interviewed black market dealers, ruling party officials and dozens of others.” Long a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Dixon said “I’ve been in dangerous situations before in Afghanistan and Chechnya, but here I had to learn to conquer a different, more insidious kind of fear: of arrest by the Central Intelligence Organization for working without accreditation.”

Judges said this entry “stood apart … because it was the result of a single reporter’s courageous and ultimately haunting efforts to understand and explain Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe to a world that often seems to have forgotten or ignored its existence. … Dixon’s reporting and writing brought out the humanity, pain and complexity of a situation in such stark detail that almost every subject jumped off the page as a fully realized human being.”

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