Master of Journalism students Lily Lee, Zela Chin, Deirdre Wang Morris, Phillippa Stewart and Carmen Ng went to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to cover the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
They were accompanied by JMSC Director of Broadcasting Programme and veteran reporter, Jim Laurie, who was also there for a reunion of journalists who had covered the Vietnam War. Laurie worked as a war correspondent in Vietnam for five years in the 1970s, reporting for for NBC News.
The young reporters picked three stories to record for ABC: the reunion of Vietnam hacks after 35 years; a Vietnamese American coffee entrepreneur who runs Highland Coffee – dubbed the Starbucks of Vietnam; and a reunion between the Burrows family and a girl that Larry Burrows, a famous Vietnam War photographer, had photographed for Life Magazine.
Larry Burrows was killed during the Vietnam War. When on assignement for Life he had taken a photo of a twelve year old girl called Nguyen Thu Tron whose leg had been blown off. Burrow’s granddaughter, Sarah, tracked Tron down in 2000 with her father, Russell Burrows. A photographer herself, Sarah took another photo for Life Magazine of the very same woman. Ten years later they returned in 2010, this time with Burrow’s grandson as well, to try to find Tron and her family.
“For me it was a story of a Vietnamese family and an American family whose fates were intertwined forever due to the Vietnam War,” says JMSC MJ student Lily Lee.
The family allowed the JMSC news team to follow them as they searched a small village to find the woman and her family. Phillippa Stewart and Lily Lee shot the journey and emotional reunion of the two families.
“I remember that moment,” says Lee. “Nguyen Thu Tron now owns a small shop; years ago the Borrows sent her a sewing machine and she has set up a small tailor and repair shop. She was sitting in her shop when suddenly the whole Burrows family appeared in front of her. She recognised them instantly and they hugged and cried. It was a very intense moment.”
This story idea was one that the team discovered when they were in Vietnam.
“Despite the preparation that takes place for these trips, there are story ideas that fall apart when you’re on the ground and other even better stories that turn up,” says Chin whose trip to Vietnam for ABC Campus News follows shortly after a similar trip to Cambodia.
“Another example of this was in Cambodia where we were chasing a story about the Mekong River and how its dropping levels are said to be affecting fishing communities. Not only did we discover the story was highly political and therefore extremely difficult to cover but also we found it very hard to substantiate so we had to drop it.”
The team of five all worked on the war correspondents story, Phillippa and Lily worked on the Borrows story and Zela and Lily worked on the coffee story. The stories are all now in post production and will be delivered to ABC before the end of June.