A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Newspaper Foreign Correspondence, Kevin G. Hall

By Quill

Kevin G. Hall made his way around the world as a street musician. He made his way around the world again as a journalist.

“(I) came to the conclusion that I needed to find a way to be paid to travel, and I wouldn’t last long as a Bob Dylan impersonator,” said Hall, now the national economics correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers.

His journalism career started at radio stations in Florida and Maryland. He volunteered with United Press International, which took him to Saudi Arabia to cover the buildup of the Gulf War. A later job with the Journal of Commerce took him to California, Texas and Mexico.

“I covered every imaginable NAFTA and border issue and the peso crash in late 1994 and deep economic and politic crisis that followed,” said Hall. “In early 1998, I moved to Miami to run a Latin American office for the JOC, traveling in South America and overseeing a network of stringers that I edited on top of my own reporting. With the JOC going under, I was in the right place at the right time to land Knight Ridder’s opening for its South America bureau, and there I was baptized by fire.”

From December 1999 to January 2005, Hall worked as the South America Bureau Chief for the wire service. He covered societal collapses in Bolivia, Peru and Argentina.

In 2004, the murder of three Brazilian federal police officials caught Hall’s attention. The slain police officials had been investigated for what Brazil calls modern slavery – workers forced at gunpoint to work for no pay – in the immense Amazon region. Authorities allowed Hall and photographer Andre Vieira to accompany them on future raids.

“Hall and Vieira encountered bloody bodies, Wild West lawlessness and brazen official corruption,” said Bureau Chief John Walcott. “They found squalor of slave camps and the startling, docile trust that illiterate men put in the landowners and field bosses who exploit them.”

After surviving two standoffs with corrupt police, Hall’s reporting resulted in a three-part series titled “The Slaves of Brazil” and several follow-up reports.

Hall confronted farmers, industrialists and exports who benefited from slavery.

“(I) traced the fruits of the practice all the way back to the living rooms of average Americans,” said Hall.

Hall also discovered that modern slavery was hacking away at Amazon lands, because the use of free labor made clearing land so cheap.

“One reward (from Hall’s writing) arrived in November when Brazil’s president declared 7,400 square miles of Amazon land – a preserve, barred from future development,” said Walcott.