Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2010


Alumni take the spotlight at Reunion for a photoshoot with Anne Reno Geddes ´93.

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All the Write Reasons

All the Write Reasons
Craig Timberg ´92. Photo by Jon Crispin.

Craig Timberg ´92 wants to change Western preconceptions with his forthcoming book on AIDS in Africa

By Rachel Harrington

Watching his father cover the White House for the Baltimore Sun, Craig Timberg ´92 grew up wondering if he wanted to follow in his father´s footsteps. He liked writing but didn´t know if he wanted to be away from home as much as his dad.

Then Timberg came to Connecticut College. After he started writing for The College Voice, covering topics like an Amtrak train accident in New London, he knew he wanted to become a journalist full time.

“I loved doing it, and I loved the sense that I was doing something that mattered,” he says.

Last year, after reporting on everything from politics to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, Timberg became the education editor at the Washington Post. Much has changed over the years for the paper most famous for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein´s Watergate coverage.

“When they hired me, the possibilities seemed limitless,” says Timberg, who started at the Post in 1998. “In a lot of ways we´re nostalgic for that era.”

With many newspapers, including the Post, struggling to make a profit, Timberg says this is “a really horrific time” for the industry.

“If we can continue to produce content that readers can´t find anywhere else, the audience won´t go away,” he says. “But I do wonder what will happen to tomorrow´s journalists.”

Still, he enjoys the challenges. As more people turn to the Web for their news, stories can go viral, and the Post has more readers than ever before. A few months ago, Timberg watched as a story he edited, about a student at Georgetown advertising for a personal assistant, became a huge hit online.

When Timberg isn´t at the assignment desk, he´s working with Daniel Halperin, a Harvard epidemiologist and AIDS researcher, to write “Tinderbox.” The book, due out early next year, will describe how colonialism in Africa triggered the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how understanding its historical and cultural underpinnings could help the world stop the spread of the disease.

It was Timberg´s work as the Post´s Johannesburg bureau chief from 2004-2008 that first spurred his interest in writing about the AIDS epidemic. He believes that Western reaction to the crisis has been incredibly flawed.

Many of the anti-AIDS strategies that worked in other parts of the world have been applied to Africa without consideration that sexual culture is very different from continent to continent, he says. For example, it´s commonly believed that poorer Africans contract HIV at a higher rate, but the problem is actually worse among wealthier African populations.

“We tend to think that the way we do things is always right,” says Timberg, who for a few weeks this summer holed up in a family cabin in upstate New York to finish the book. “We´re hoping this book will illuminate people and lead them to a better response.”

Though it´s been nearly two decades since Timberg graduated, he still credits Connecticut College for leading him down his career path.

“I showed up reasonably bright but unfocused,” he says. “What I found at Conn were professors who were really eager to engage our brains.”

One of those professors was Professor of Philosophy Larry Vogel. A history and philosophy major, Timberg took several courses with him.

“Philosophy makes you step back once in awhile and get to the essence of things, which is what I think you have to do as a journalist,” Timberg said.

Vogel, who considers Timberg to be one of his most outspoken students, says Timberg was “a fantastic writer right from the get-go.”

“Craig set an example for others. New ideas excited him and he insisted on connecting them with the everyday world,” Vogel says.

Although Timberg is following in his father´s footsteps in his writing career, he is doing it on his own terms. He makes sure that his work doesn´t prevent him from spending as much time as possible with his wife, Ruey Badgley Timberg ´94, and their three kids.

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