Photo of Ms. Campbell

Jo Campbell



Founder, Ecotopics International News Service

Some very famous reporters -- Al Friendly, Tom Winship, Al Hailey, for example -- used to summon me by hollering: "Boy!".

Who, me? Well, that's the way it was then; it was war time and we "boys" were girls.

Starting out of school in 1944 as a cub reporter/cum gopher for the Daytona Beach (Florida) News-Journal, I really wanted to work in Washington; for the Washington Post, if possible -- a paper to fire the ambition of any youngster. So I moved North and became a Post copy boy/gopher! Within six months or so, the men returned from the war and all the women vanished from the Post city room. I was lucky to find a copyreader job at the original World Report magazine, later incorporated into USNews and World Report.

After about a year, I did what young girls did in those days: I got married. Don and I had three girl children in rapid succession, so for awhile I did mostly mothering.

But the ink -- as we used to say -- was in my blood, so I soon got a part-time job as Bureau Chief , a one-woman bureau covering Washington and the United Nations for an Urdu daily in Lahore, Pakistan.

We fast-forward to 1956, the true beginning of my professional career. I was taken on as a writer/editor with the press service of the US Information Agency, where I remained until I retired in 1986.

From 1961 I was assigned to the Africa Branch, whose assignments took me to Senegal, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania. In the United States I covered Capitol hearings, worldwide trade conferences, and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

I have priceless relics from these assignments; art, photographs, audiotapes, and above all incomparable memories of great events and greater people.

A professional high point: the award of a Jefferson Fellowship for the year 1981-82 at George Washington University, was a truly educational break, and my only full-time university experience.

A feature of work for USIA is, in my opinion, that some of us cannot stop. My abiding concern with environmental issues led to post-retirement contract assignments. These took me in that 21-foot RV in the picture; to Las Cruces, NM and to Lubbock, TX, for stories on water resources management in Middle Eastern countries, and to Los Alamos National Laboratory for stories on a Latin American energy program. By the way, December in Lubbock gave "the wind comes sweeping 'cross the plains" a whole new meaning, especially when the RV's water tank froze up to a solid mass. (I remember thinking: 'This never happens in Africa').

Even before leaving USIA, I had begun to think about establishment of "Ecotopics International News Service" -- designed to be a print-feature syndicate dedicated to the environment and to human rights. I could not make it work. Totally spoiled by working with intuitive, empathetic editors and supportive colleagues, I simply never learned salesmanship.

So, my print feature service found exposure through transmogrification into an electronic publication or "'zine" as it's called. I feel that this was a natural move for a low-tech computer nerd who was the first at USIA to buy a laptop -- the faithful Tandy 100 unit for use on the road.

On Ecotopics, I write, select, edit text, and choose illustrations, emailing the final assembled work to highly-specialized technical folks (Connectad, Inc. www.connectad.com ) in Florida, who make up the web site and turn it on "live," at www.ecotopics.com .

Still clumsy at self-promotion, I've recruited a "SCORE" (Senior Corps of Retired Executives) volunteer to help me launch an advertising campaign. Goal: self-sufficiency for Ecotopics.

I maintain professional info and contacts through memberships. I'm a Silver Owl member of the National Press Club, belong to the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, the International Women's Writing Guild, Conservation Voters, Carrying Capacity Network, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Honors through the years have included: USIA for writings in the Nigerian Press 1986. Member, Maryland Governor's Task Force to Examine State Pension Investment in South Africa. (I was the only woman, and only member who had been to Africa!) I served three years as representative of Ocean City, MD, on the State Coastal and Watershed Resources Advisory Committee; as Third Vice President, Worcester County Branch NAACP, and was a member of the Worcester County Commission for Women.

After 41 years of marriage, I lost my husband Don to lung cancer in 1988, whereupon I moved to our erstwhile vacation home on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Ten years later, to be nearer children and grandchildren, I moved again, driving that same little RV across the continent in October, 1998. With my partner, Hyman Rudoff, retired chemist and presently outstanding photojournalist, I've settled in Willits, California.

"Why Willits?" I've been asked. Well, I wrote stories for USIA about "Ecology Action", a biointensive minifarming center in Willits, and about its leader John Jeavons. So, of course, they are the ones I called about the community, its atmosphere and -- vitally important -- its affordability. Their advice was very positive, so here we are!

We humans may still be acclimatizing to Northern California, but the wonder of it is that electronic publications are unfettered by geography. Ecotopics works here just as it did 3,000 miles away on the East Coast. And long-distance bills to families are not nearly so high!

E-mail: jocee@ecotopics.com