When it comes to media in South Sudan — radio is king. Radio plays to the country’s oral tradition. Further, there is limited electric power distribution. The country is poor and TVs are expensive. Finally TV coverage has not reached much of the country. Radio is perfet for a country like this. Radio sets don’t require much infrastructure. Radios can be powered by batteries, solar cells or hand cranks.
South Sudan had just become the world’s newest nation after decades of civil war with the North. The infrastructure was ruined and radio is playing a central role in nation building, providing education (including classroom instruction while the nation rebuilds its education system) and important health information. Being at the radio station in many ways meant being in the center of the nation.
I worked in South Sudan in April-May and Aug-Sept 2012 doing newsroom training and working with local management. I was working with old colleagues Jon Newstrom and Charlie Northip who had been with the project for years. On the second trip Suzi joined me and worked with the station manager on setting up policies
The staff was great. The manager, Steve, had been a child soldier. He worked hard, got an MBA and was running the station. I learned as much from him as he did from me. The Program Director, Daniel, did a really hot African music show and his now wife, Lucy, is a good reporter with a great voice. And there were so many others, Mito, Helen, Christine, Moses and Danis to name a few. It was a pleasure to work with all of them.
I wrote 9 letters to my family at home from South Sudan. Today I’m posting this introduction and a gallery of photos. For the next 9 days, I will post a letter a day along with some photos that illustrate the letter — and a photo gallery. In these letters you can follow my journey to South Sudan as I learned more about the country. One thing I learned is that the country looks completely different in the wet and in the dry seasons. In the dry season the ground is brown and dusty. It looks like a desert. In the wet season it is lush and green. I was amazed, you will be too, as these letters progress with the seasons.
So to tease you, here is a gallery of pictures to kick off my South Sudan journey. They start with a cattle market and a cattle drive through a cemetery. Then there are pictures from Juba. More tomorrow.