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Timberg's book on the HIV/AIDS epidemic is due out early next year

Craig Timberg '92
Craig Timberg '92

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 said.

Timberg started at The Washington Post in 1998. Last year, after reporting on everything from politics to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, he became the newspaper’s education editor.

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 in early 2011, will describe how colonialism in Africa triggered the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how understanding its historical and cultural underpinnings could help the world stop it now.

Timberg first became interested in the topic while reporting from Africa as the Post’s Johannesburg bureau chief from 2004-08. He believes that Western reaction to the crisis has been incredibly flawed.

Many of the anti-AIDS strategies that worked in other countries have been applied to Africa without consideration that sexual culture is very different from continent to continent, he said. For example, one common misconception is that poorer Africans have a higher rate of contracting HIV, when in reality, the problem is worse among wealthier African populations.

“We tend to think that the way we do things is always right,” he said. “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 said. “What I found at Conn were professors who were really eager to engage our brains.”

One of those professors was 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, said that 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,” said Vogel.

And despite Timberg’s early fears about being too consumed by his career, he still makes a point to get home to his wife, Ruey Badgley Timberg ’94, and three kids each night.

Learn more about Craig Timberg ’92.

-Rachel Harrington

May 20, 2010