Ernesto Londoño, B.S.C. ’03, knew he wanted to be a reporter the first time he wrote for The Miami Hurricane about the renovation of the Richter Library in 2000. His editor, on the other hand, had a few reservations about the article he turned in.
“I got a call from the editor that night telling me, ‘I think you made a mistake and you brought me your notes, not your story,’” Londoño says. “And it was what I thought was a good story.”
Now a reporter on the foreign desk for The Washington Post, Londoño has written more than his share of good stories. In January 2007, he volunteered for a nine-week rotation to report from Iraq at the Post’s bureau in Baghdad. And after a stint covering crime in Montgomery County, Maryland last year, Londoño returns to Baghdad this spring for at least a year on assignment there. He recalls a story he worked on last year about an American soldier who spent nearly a year helping a sick Iraqi child get medical care in the United States. The soldier was killed the day after the boy’s visa was approved, but the boy was able to travel to New York with his father for surgery, which was successful.
“It was a really bittersweet story,” Londoño says. “We all know that war brings out the worst in people, but it also brings out the best in people.”
Despite strict security measures and the walls and fences that gave the city a prison-like feel, Londoño was able to witness how life goes on, even in a war zone. He wrote about theater in Iraq and was impressed by the actors who performed their hearts out, despite having only a dozen or so people in the audience. “You’re not paralyzed by fear every day,” he says.
Working seven days a week in Baghdad posed its challenges; unreliable phone lines, slow Internet access, and language barriers helped Londoño sharpen his skills and trust his own judgment as a reporter. But the experience also gave him a new perspective on Iraq, something he hopes he passed on to his readers.
“It felt like I’d been able to peel a layer from a very dense and sad and scary story—and let some of the humanity seep through. That was very rewarding,” he says.
— Natalia Maldonado, A.B. ’06