When I started as a full-time writer and journalist, I had a burning passion for uncovering the truth. I typed with the fervor of a man on a mission. Each keystroke was like lifting the veil on a long-lost mystery, allowing the world to see the reality behind current events with unbiased eyes. But as I’ve grown as a journalist, I feel my passion and zeal beginning to fade. Is this apathy? Depression? Or have I become callous after staring into the abyss of truth for too long?

As we all know, the world is an unfair and often unkind place. Each day, new atrocities are happening around the globe and, as a journalist, I am constantly subjected to the intense misery of others. Last week, while flying home from a remote village several miles outside Harare, Zimbabwe, I thought of the family I had met for an article on the prevalence of poaching in the Zimbabwean safari. I met a family of 4 who had dedicated their lives to saving the much unknown African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) from the ever-present threat of extinction by poaching. The youngest of the family was a 17-year-old boy whose tall thin legs and calloused feet showed the prowess of a long-distance runner capable of incredible athletic feats. He had led me by foot through miles of protected Safari land to spot a family of African wild dogs chasing an antelope which they apprehended and promptly made lunch. We watched as the dogs feasted before hearing the rumble of an engine to the east. I turned to look but saw nothing while the young man turned and, with his veteran eyes, spotted a crew of 5 armed poachers approaching rapidly. Outnumbered, we were forced to lie in the bush out of sight while the family of African wild dogs was slaughtered for their stiff, bristled fur. Hours felt like days as we listened to the sound of knives on flesh while lying perfectly still in the tall, dry grass. Eventually, the poachers left, and all that remained were the lifeless carcasses of the family of wild dogs. The young boy knelt next to the body of one wild dog, placing his hand on the bare flesh of its ribs, and explained to me that less than 7000 wild dogs exist to this day and that this family had been the male hunting group of a particular subpopulation living to the southwest. Without their male hunting group, all of this subpopulation’s wild dogs would likely die.

As the boy spoke to me, I listened to the tone and inflection of his voice. It had a solemn but stern tone that gave no indication of defeat but showed his immense respect for the beast that lay dead next to him. I thought of my feelings of defeat in journalism and my writing. I thought of my solemn feelings towards continuing this career which has put so much of a mental burden on my life. Could I be as strong as this young boy is before me? Finally, he stood up from his kneel, dusted off his knee, and began walking back home, calling for me to follow without turning around.

The next day I boarded a plane back to my home in America and considered my own life. What is the wild dog that I am protecting? Am I as strong a protector for this thing as the boy I had met? I realized then that my job as an investigative journalist is to protect the truth from those in the public that desire to spread falsehoods. It is a difficult job filled with its solemn moments, but I have been called to do this dutifully, and to abandon my post is to leave the truth undefended from a hoard of poachers at the ready.

As a reader of The Simple Herald, I hope you feel inspired to defend reliable journalism and thus feel empowered to donate to support our investigative journalism for decades to come. I hope you’ll join me at my post and that together, we can save the most endangered thing of all: truth.

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Raymond Hourst
Biologist, world traveler, and fine dining expert writing from Antananarivo, Madagascar to Detroit, Michigan

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