We met at The University of Montana while working at the student newspaper, the Montana Kaimin. Back then, we tolerated each other—barely. But shortly after graduation, our first journalism jobs took us to the same small daily paper on Wyoming’s windswept plains. There, we collaborated on stories ranging from gun violence to rock climbers at Devils Tower National Monument. We worked hard. We hung out together. We decided we might actually like each other.
When Karen left for graduate school in Oregon the following year, Jerry landed a job at a nearby paper. He drove the U-Haul while she drove his car, which had a broken heater. It was the first week of January, complete with snowstorms and freezing ice on the highways. She must have liked him by then, or she never would have made that trip.
The next fall, Karen signed up for a semester in Vietnam on a collaborative exchange. The impending distance made the heart grow cranky. Jerry asked her the ultimate question, and she said yes.
After a crazy-fun summer wedding on an Oregon ranch, Karen took a job at The Cambodia Daily and Jerry followed, shooting freelance for Agence France-Presse, The New York Times and other news organizations throughout the region.
Since then we have collaborated on stories all over the map—child labor in Cambodia, the 2004 Asian tsunamis, human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Hmong loggers in Vietnam and the world’s hottest chiles in Nagaland. Food and environment are central themes in much of our work. Our biggest project has been a documentation of the effects of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, where American bombs still kill and maim people nearly 40 years after war. Those bombs make digging a dangerous activity in a country where most people are farmers.
That project was published in book form as Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos by ThingsAsian Press in 2013. We are now in post-production on a documentary based on the original research from the book.
In late 2011, we were named Senior Fellows at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, based on our UXO investigation.
In 2007, we bought a little fixer-upper near the Rio Grande in New Mexico and began to split our time between the United States and elsewhere. We have spent much of the past two decades living and traveling abroad, working on projects and training journalists in developing countries.
It’s a fine balance, we think: home, work, life.
Our best results stem from the times we patiently watch, listen and note the world around us. Ordinary life lends something extraordinary when people take time to look and think—especially in this age of tweets and apps. It’s a rhythm that has become more than a job. It’s the pace of life we have created together.