The overwhelmed reporter syndrome

It gets harder and harder every day. Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto


The author of this piece is the editor of a media outlet in Caracas, where services aren’t so precarious. This is her story about how long (and how much effort) it takes to do what would be regular tasks for a journalist of a normal country.

By Caracas ChronicleCelina Carquez

Sep 23, 2020

I have to hand in a 20,000 word article right now, but at the same time I have to fix a problem with my fridge, that isn’t cooling anymore. It’s not the first time this has happened. My fridge usually plays these games on me whenever we have electric fluctuations, a regular event in Caracas, so I juggle and manage to finish the text and see the technician, who’s only able to come in today after two weeks of waiting, because there are blockades in Western Caracas to prevent people from leaving their homes.

I pull through today, but I struggle with falling asleep. I don’t know which hurdle Venezuela and Maduro will throw at me tomorrow, I don’t have bubbles to escape reality anymore. I wake up at around seven almost every morning, read the news that I can, and receive at least ten news bulletins. The pandemic takes everything in its path. As I try to organize my day and look into how I’m going to continue my investigation on domestic gas canisters, the internet signal dies. I go through thousands of maneuvers to try and bring it back, almost giving mouth-to-mouth to the outlet: nothing, the signal’s gone. I just want to cry.

I start to handwrite the gas distribution knots, to have an idea on how I’m going to present the eight infographics that the special report will show. The internet comes back, but the signal is capriciously unstable; after a while, it stays put. Today I have running water, electricity, and internet: it feels like a first world country and all.


I call B, reporter and partner in the research. What’s supposed to be a meeting to discuss her progress in the investigation about the gas burning in Monagas State, ends up being a self-help session. When water comes through her pipes, it’s with sediments and brown, but then she hasn’t had electricity in the last ten days. Her 2G cell phone signal from Movistar dies constantly and she hasn’t been able to call the experts. She also has a migraine, bad mood, and very low morale. Who can blame her?

I have to choose between the water and the Jose technician. Survival wins.

I turn to a run-down rhetoric. I try to explain that she’s not the only one who feels trapped, the entire country does, but the obstacles for her mean taking four or five days to get through to the engineers in Monagas, because they have no signal and nobody gets the messages. She also has to get up really early to interview X union member, because it’s the only time of day that the man has a phone signal to take her call, and she has to bleach her clothes thanks to the dirty water she gets at home.

Since I’m having so much trouble getting in touch with the cooking gas experts (the one that comes in canisters), I’m carrying out another investigation to keep myself busy. It’s the same thing I was telling B, we have to get started on several stories at once not only to have a higher publishing rate, but also to avoid the feeling of being stuck, the asphyxia you get after four months of imprisonment, afraid of COVID-19.

A fear that struck close to home for me because my neighbor, the one 20 mts. away from my apartment, tested positive. I’m panicking. How many times did I cross paths with him? Were we wearing facemasks?

Days go by, and the worry that has been squeezing my stomach goes away. I know I don’t have COVID-19 because the self-appointed communal council in my neighborhood came to our building and made us go on foot–almost by force–to a house two blocks away, with four desks on the front door, where we were tested. I took my cell phone, in case I tested positive and the state arrested me. At least I could tell my husband.

Read More: Caracas Chronicle – The Overwhelmed Reporter Syndrome

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