Behind The Bruin: The process that went into producing 2019’s travel grant in India
(Aileen Nguyen/Graphics editor)
The Daily Bruin doesn’t write itself. Behind every copy placed on newsstands and every story published online lies the journalistic process of hundreds of hard-working contributors, staffers and editors. Every day, important decisions are made to determine what is reported, how the reporting happens and in what ways we can best serve our readers. This is “Behind The Bruin.”
Selecting the project
Angie Forburger, editor in chief
Traveling the world and reporting on the untold stories of different people and communities is something many journalists dream of.
At the Daily Bruin, we’re lucky enough to get that opportunity through our travel scholarship.
The Daily Bruin Travel Scholarship was created from the Bridget O’Brien Scholarship Foundation, recognizing the memory of Bridget O’Brien, a former photojournalist at The Bruin who died in 2007. The foundation discontinued its work in 2016, but has since continued to support funding for travel projects at The Bruin.
In April, with the funding available, the travel scholarship application opened to all Daily Bruin staffers, allowing them to submit a travel-grant project for consideration.
While there may not always be a pitch when funding is available, The Bruin received applications from three staffers: former News science and health editor and current PRIME director Teddy Rosenbluth, former Opinion editor Keshav Tadimeti and former assistant Photo editor and current Photo editor Liz Ketcham.
Upon receiving the applications, the three staffers met with former Editor-in-chief Jacob Preal and myself, as the incoming editor in chief, to discuss the logistics of the project and finalize their ideas for coverage.
Once we were able to fine-tune the pitch, the staffers presented their plans to the committee made up of current and incoming Daily Bruin managing editors, UCLA Student Media director Doria Deen and multiple members of the Associated Students UCLA Communications Board.
The committee approved the application and Rosenbluth, Tadimeti and Ketcham were set to travel to Delhi.
Reporting in India
Teddy Rosenbluth, PRIME director
In August, I traveled with Tadimeti and Ketcham to Delhi to report on a UCLA patent war that could make a prostate cancer medication unaffordable to most people in India.
After months of meeting with doctors and advocacy groups, we boarded a plane and flew halfway across the globe to try to figure out how this patent war was affecting real people.
Reporting was difficult, to say the least.
During the day, we visited countless pharmacies, begged doctors and even stood outside a hospital in 100-degree Fahrenheit heat to find patients willing to talk on the record.
At night we brainstormed questions and transcribed interviews until jet lag set in and we collapsed into bed. We were drained in every sense of the word, but also determined to find our story.
Over the course of 10 days, we realized reporting in India involved challenges we didn’t experience in the States.
For one thing, I sprayed mosquito repellant on every inch of my body and packed face wipes before I left the hotel – the extreme humidity was a far cry from the Los Angeles beach weather I was used to. I also had to fight the urge to pet the stray dogs as we walked to our interviews – which took every ounce of my willpower when I spotted a small pup that had nestled inside a flower pot to stay cool.
When we interviewed sources, they seemed more skeptical of journalists than I was used to back home. One man shook his head vehemently in disapproval when I took out my recorder. Another made me swear up and down that I would check every fact with him before we published.
Some aspects of reporting, however, felt familiar: the doctors were earnest, the patients were worried.
One particular source, Rupam Borah, agreed to speak to us on the day before we flew home. His father was taking the medication we were reporting on, so we drove 40 minutes from our hotel to a small cafe on the outskirts of Delhi to hear from him.
“What will you do if the price of the medicine increases?” I asked him over the clay cups of chai he insisted on giving us.
“We will have to live by the reality that he will have to pass away sooner,” he said.