How the Story Was Reported

Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz spent more than a year researching and reporting the long-term effects that Agent Orange has on the lives of the Vietnamese, U.S. war veterans and their families. Here is a look at how the project began, how it was put together, and its contributors.

The Vietnam Reporting Project

Jon Funabiki is executive director of the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University and a fellow member of the International Dialogues for Thought Leaders in Media. For the last four years, we have joined about two dozen other journalists once a year to explore the changing landscape of our profession. When he called me in February 2010, Funabiki was quick to remind me of this mission.

“We’ve got a new adventure for you,” he said. “It’s called the Vietnam Reporting Project. We want you to go to Vietnam and write about the long-term impact of Agent Orange.”

My immediate response: “What long-term impact of Agent Orange?”

Thus began my education about the tragedy that continues to unfold in that beautiful sliver of a country in Southeast Asia and for veterans and families in the United States.

Funabiki convinced me it is a story that demands telling.

The Vietnam Reporting Project — coordinated by the Renaissance Journalism Center and funded by the Ford Foundation — offered to pay for my travel, hotel rooms and food, and provide training and logistics support. In return, I would report what I found. The Plain Dealer would pay my salary and oversee all editing.

Nine months of research later, I was as ready as I was going to be to see firsthand the legacy of a war that most of my generation has spent a lifetime trying to forget.

— Connie Schultz

How this story was reported

The late William “Bill” Morris’ conversations were reconstructed through interviews with his wife, Sharon Morris; daughter, Heather Morris Bowser; and son-in-law, Aaron Bowser. Bill Morris’ time in Vietnam was further documented by photographs he sent during his service.

Main story

Unfinished Business: Suffering and sickness in the endless wake of Agent Orange.

Heather Bowser’s travels in Vietnam not directly witnessed by Connie Schultz were reconstructed through interviews with Heather and Aaron Bowser and filmmaker Masako Sakata.

Connie Schultz also acknowledges the assistance of numerous scientists, researchers and advocates on the issue of Agent Orange including:

The Aspen Institute; Trude A. Bennett, associate professor of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill; Wayne Dwernychuk, retired senior scientist and current adviser with Hatfield Consultants; The Ford Foundation; Susan Hammond, founder and executive director of the War Legacies Project; Edwin A. Martini, associate professor of history at Western Michigan University and author of “The Invisible Enemies: The American War on Vietnam 1975–2000”; and the Vietnam Reporting Project.

Support for this project

Travel and lodging expenses, as well as research and logistics support for Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz and Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, were provided by The Vietnam Reporting Project, which was developed by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University in collaboration with Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. It is funded by the Ford Foundation.

Connie Schultz also acknowledges ongoing support as a member of the International Dialogues for Thought Leaders in Media, which is made possible by Images and Voices of Hope and the Fetzer Institute.


About Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Plain Dealer and Creators Syndicate, and is a regular essayist for Parade magazine. She won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for columns that judges praised for providing “a voice for the underdog and the underprivileged." Also in 2005, Connie won the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Commentary and the National Headliner Award for Commentary.

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