I remember talking to a Marine in Iraq during a breather between firefights in Ramadi. I told him, “When I go home, people ask, ‘What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?’” “What do you tell them?” he asked. “I say, ‘You haven’t earned the right to know.’” He went quiet for a while. “You know what they ask me when I go home?” he asked. “‘So how many people have you killed?’” “And what do you tell them?” I asked. “I tell them,” he said, “‘That is between me and the dead.’”
CNN correspondent Michael Ware practices what Berkley calls the “fine art of hanging around.” Except Ware, and many like him, practice in the lawless hazard zones far from apple pie and baseball.
Admittedly, I’ve been slow to catch up on my magazines. Research reading and triathlon training trump leisure perusal eight nights a week.
Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros died in April, two of 863 journalists killed in the past 20 years.
Their deaths struck the journalism community harder than most due to their statures within the industry. Two pillars crumbled amid the senseless violence of war.
Sebastian Junger, Hetherington’s friend, attributed their role as war correspondents to risk, “the beautiful woman we were both in love with…”
I think Newsweek hit the target more precisely, calling that need to return part of a dedication to the “principle of truth-through-proximity.”
Berkley and other professors implore us to go there, see it, get close. Hanging around uncovers details and unlocks a potential for musings and dialogue made impossible by phone calls or digital exchanges.
I have no desire to skulk the bowels of Congress as an investigative reporter. I do not wish to rush into war-torn lands. I’m more curious about cracks in the sidewalk, the commonly overlooked intricacies of the lives we lead.
But I’m proud to be in a profession that includes the Hetheringtons and Hondros of the world. Sacrifices of practicing journalists, whether in Colombia or Columbia, Mo., grant everybody space to take another step closer to reality, truth and the freedoms of our country.