Gary Strieker had each cause to be a pessimist. Folks dying of starvation, brutal killings and lots of different horrific occasions that he coated as a global reporter unfolded proper earlier than his eyes.
But Strieker by no means misplaced his optimistic spirit or his ardour to make clear critically essential however usually underreported tales on the atmosphere and international well being.
Strieker — who handed away in July of this yr at age 78 — was CNN’s first Nairobi bureau chief, serving to the community open its reporting hub within the Kenyan capital in 1985. Colleagues say he coated your complete African continent — generally as a one-man band — through the community’s early years when newsgathering budgets have been lean.
The life and profession of Gary Strieker, who coated Africa for CNN within the Eighties and ’90s
“He was keen about (Africa) and he wished to share that love of the continent with all its craziness and violence, but additionally its magnificence and enjoyable,” stated Kim Norgaard, CNN’s senior director of operations for worldwide newsgathering.
Strieker received an Emmy award in 1992 for his function in CNN’s protection of Somalia’s civil battle and he’s credited with being one of many first tv journalists to enter Rwanda because the genocide unfolded there within the spring of 1994.
He spent the latter a part of his profession specializing in international environmental points — most lately producing “This American Land” which airs on PBS stations throughout the US.
This profession shift took place within the mid-Nineteen Nineties after an encounter with Ted Turner, CNN’s founder, who shared Strieker’s ardour about conservation and the atmosphere.
“(Gary) had this concept he wished to be CNN’s environmental reporter,” stated Norgaard. “Yearly or so we had (a) convention in Atlanta and I walked down there with Gary and I hear Ted yell, ‘Gary! Come sit right here!’ and he broadcasts to everybody, ‘Gary is our man in Africa!’
“They sat down and began speaking after which Gary simply talked about this concept to him about environmental (reporting) and I keep in mind Ted turning round, Tom Johnson (CNN’s president on the time) and going, ‘Tom, that is sensible! I like it, let’s make it occur!”
Different colleagues who recalled the story stated Johnson later half-jokingly swore by no means to take a seat a correspondent subsequent to Turner once more.
In 1997, Strieker and his second spouse Christine moved to Atlanta the place he labored as CNN’s international atmosphere correspondent. His reporting on central Africa’s bushmeat disaster, in addition to deforestation in Indonesia, Peru and Papua New Guinea, earned him the Nationwide Press Membership’s prime prize for environmental reporting in 2000.
“Gary was, in numerous methods, forward of his time — he was pushing for environmental reporting years earlier than another community,” Norgaard recalled.
Norgaard, CNN’s former Johannesburg bureau chief, was a junior editor on the community’s worldwide desk in Atlanta when he first started working with Strieker.
“I used to be born and grew up in Africa, so we type of had a particular understanding,” he stated.
Strieker was completely different than many worldwide correspondents on the time who, Norgaard stated, could possibly be “actually wound-up” and impolite after they known as the worldwide desk.
“That was by no means him,” Norgaard stated. “He was at all times calm, courteous … that’s what I’ll always remember about Gary. I didn’t know him that carefully, however he’s somebody you thought of a buddy.”
Born within the small Illinois city of Breese on July 7, 1944, Strieker grew up in San Diego, California – ultimately incomes a regulation diploma from UC-Hastings in San Francisco. Strieker and his first spouse, Phyllis, joined one of many first US Peace Corps groups in 1968 on a mission to the newly unbiased African Kingdom of Swaziland – now Eswatini.
Strieker spent 5 years in Swaziland serving as a authorized advisor to the brand new sovereign authorities and serving to draft a invoice to guard Swazi land rights. Throughout this time, his eldest daughter Lindsay was born. Strieker took a job with Citibank in Beirut in 1975 through the early days of the Lebanese civil battle earlier than returning to Africa as Citibank’s resident vp for its regional workplace in Nairobi, Kenya.
Strieker’s twin daughters, Rachel and Alison, have been born in Nairobi, and a few well being issues put Alison’s life in danger.
“The physician on the hospital who was caring for me was simply very nonchalant and stated, ‘Nicely … we’ll see if she makes it by means of the evening,’” stated Alison Strieker, recalling her dad’s story. “And my dad stated, ‘Is there one thing we are able to do?’ and the physician stated ‘She wants blood for a transfusion.’”
Gary Strieker stated he requested the nurses to check his blood sort and he was a match. Years later, Alison stated her dad saved her life a second time when he donated his kidney to her.
“He’s my favourite individual on earth,” Alison Strieker stated. “I nonetheless have his kidney to this present day.”
As his daughters have been rising up, they have been the middle of his life and he captured many moments of their younger lives on a film digital camera and an previous Kodak “Brownie” digital camera.
His ardour for pictures sparked his pivot to journalism.
“The pictures primarily obtained him inquisitive about not simply the pictures however telling a narrative … about individuals and locations and animals that do not need a voice — and that gave the impression to be his actual ardour,” Alison Strieker recalled.
After a quick stint with ABC Information, he joined CNN within the early Eighties, establishing the brand new community’s bureau in Nairobi and changing into its solely correspondent on the African continent on the time.
“Gary entered the world of reporting in international locations in Africa at a time within the Eighties when long-running conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia coincided with drought and famine (and) led to giant refugee crises,” former CNN supervising editor Eli Flournoy recalled.
“Gary was there on the bottom, yr after yr, protecting, documenting, illustrating these endemic conflicts.”
Strieker had numerous shut calls throughout his reporting profession.
“He was in crash landings in planes, he was in automotive accidents the place different individuals died — he was simply very devoted,” his oldest daughter Lindsay Strieker stated.
After a automotive accident in Rwanda, he was declared lifeless and brought to the morgue.
“He awoke within the morgue as a toe tag was being connected and stated it rattling close to killed the medical employee when he sat up,” recalled Jim Clancy, former CNN anchor and worldwide correspondent.
He had one other brush with loss of life whereas reporting on the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo, that left tons of lifeless.
“Gary … fearlessly went in and coated the Ebola sufferers and the operations of the (Kikwit) hospital, which was one of many first of its variety to deal with an infectious outbreak like Ebola,” Flournoy recalled. “It was a really, very harmful atmosphere.”
At one level, the native authorities started implementing a quarantine and approached Strieker, who they believed had been uncovered to Ebola.
“They have been going to place him within the hospital’s Ebola wing,” Flournoy stated.
Outfitted with a satellite tv for pc telephone, Strieker known as the worldwide desk in a panic.
“He (stated) ‘We have now to do one thing to stop this from occurring, as a result of I’ll virtually actually die if I’m quarantined on this hospital,’” Flournoy stated.
After a “mad scramble” which concerned numerous telephone calls and the intervention of United Nations officers, Strieker was allowed to depart the nation as a substitute.
“Gary continued to be unflappable, decided to get right down to the information of the story concurrently with the ability to at all times discover the human story inside the bigger battle,” Flournoy stated. “He was a outstanding storyteller.”
Strieker by no means misplaced his curiosity or vitality for shining a light-weight on crucial tales about people who find themselves impacted by international well being and environmental crises.
“It was by no means about getting his face on TV or a better Nielsen score,” stated Dave Timko who labored with Strieker on “This American Land.”
Strieker solely cared about utilizing his platforms to inform the tales of individuals internationally who have been in want.
“Generally he’d say, ‘If I don’t go to these locations, no one’s doing these tales,’” his widow Christine Nkini Strieker stated.
He was a faithful father to the couple’s two kids Reid, 20, and Nandi, 16, sharing tales with them at dinnertime about his adventures and spending each second he may along with his household when he wasn’t on project.
Even when he grew to become sick, Christine stated that Strieker was decided to get higher so he may begin working once more.
“He refused to say, I’m too sick to do something,” she stated.
After Strieker’s passing in July, buddies and former colleagues flooded a shared Fb web page with recollections — all recounting Strieker’s unbelievable tales, his quiet bravery within the midst of extremely harmful reporting assignments, his wit and real devotion to the craft of journalism.
“His message to us was, ‘Life, with its ups and downs, is an journey – and it’s essential to remain curious and compassionate,’” stated his daughter Rachel.
It’s some consolation to the family members he leaves behind, together with his 5 kids and three surviving grandchildren, who’re choosing up the items after his passing.
“The extra we don’t take a look at the unhappiness and the extra we take a look at the optimistic within the life he gave us – that’s the factor I need my youngsters to hold on,” Christine Strieker stated.