8. Family

On July 26, 2014, Jennifer Yang went on vacation to a cottage with her family who was visiting from Alberta. Yang received a call from McAuley, giving her the official go ahead from the Toronto Star. If Yang chose to go to Sierra Leone, the Star would support her decision. Ultimately, it was her decision to make.

At first, her parents were excited for her, but at the time, they didn’t know how severe the outbreak was in Sierra Leone.

Soon after they returned home from the cottage, Yang received a call from her parents. They were worried about her falling ill and asked her not to travel to West Africa. Yang hadn’t decided whether she was going or not, and her parents’ fears only increased her self-doubt. The following is a Facebook conversation between Yang and her mother on July 30, 2014:

This outbreak is starting get serious, are you sure you need to go?


Don’t worry mom. It is very easy to protect yourself. It cannot be spread by people without symptoms, so staying away from sick people is the important thing. Also, it is not spread by air, only by contact with bodily fluids. If I don’t get any blood, sweat, saliva, urine, feces on me, I am safe.

(And even if I get it on me, it would have to enter my bloodstream or my mouth/eyes).

Please be extra careful, Australia has banned travelling to West Africa. and I heard on the radio from CBC someone suggesting people who come back from West Africa should quarantine for 21 days, if this is the case your California trip will be affected.


 Next: The Decision-Making Point

7. Isolation

Jennifer Yang’s decision would not only affect her. As she considered her options, she consulted  her live-in boyfriend of three years, the Star‘s deputy national editor, Matt Carter. Although he would support whatever decision she made, they needed to discuss whether she should return home after the trip, or isolate herself for 21 days. “The last thing I would want was to infect my […]

6. Safety Measures

Contemplating the possibility of her own trip, Jennifer Yang sought guidance from the Red Cross and other aid organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Claudia Blume, press officer for MSF Canada, says a big part of the organization’s mission is to support journalists going into the field to report on what they’re witnessing firsthand. In this case, MSF […]

5. Conflict Zones

Before green-lighting Yang’s trip, Lynn McAuley had to consult with managing editor Jane Davenport — in part to verify whether the Star would face extra insurance costs for an assignment in the hot zone. Fortunately, no premium was necessary at the moment. Most news organizations’ insurance policies cover hazards faced by reporters abroad, but additional premiums are sometimes needed for assignments in particularly hazardous areas, […]

4. Meeting with Editor

After assuring herself of support from the aid organizations, Yang approached foreign editor Lynn McAuley with a thoroughly researched pitch. Initially, McAuley had a few major questions: how would Yang’s stories add something new to the ongoing Ebola conversation? And, were the potential health risks manageable? If so, were they worth it? Until then, Yang had relied on official reports, […]