When Reporters Die


The Dish is reeling today from the news of the untimely deaths of two extraordinary journalists – killed in Misurata by Qaddafi's forces (Beast homage here). Tim Hetherington's Restrepo is easily the finest film on the US intervention in Afghanistan. If you haven't seen it, stream it, rent it, Netflix it. It was far too good to win an Oscar. And its magnificence comes from its directorial restraint. Somehow, Hetherington and Sebastian Junger managed to take themselves out of the picture altogether, and allowed the events, the faces, the human beings to tell their own story with the cumulative power that actual reality television or film-making requires. There's a good interview with Hetherington here, and a book of photographs, Infidel, available here. Chris Hondros's work has been a staple of Dish coverage for the past few years. The great privilege of a blog like this one is being able to scour the output of photo-agencies and find images that cannot fit into a daily newspaper, but which sear into one's consciousnessness.

Some believe that the role of old-fashioned being-there reporters is antiquated with the emergence of citizen-journalism, YouTube, Twitter, and blogging in general. I certainly think these new media and ways of bringing the truth about the world to light are amazing. That's why I do what I do. But I have never believed there is a replacement for on-hand reporting. Citizen journalists witness and broadcast. Men and women like Hetherington and Hondros do that but with professional skill, the eye of an outsider, and the capacity to edit. And they exhibit in some ways more courage than those in the midst of their own lives and conflicts because they do not have to be there. They choose to be there, and to bear witness to the struggles of others. A human being is a human being and journalists' live are not more worthy than anyone else's. But when men like these perish, there is a special darkness in our hearts. Because we know less, can care less, and can turn away from less because these men are gone.

(Photo: A paratrooper in the First Brigade of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division stands in summer heat after a parachute training jump August 6, 2010 at Camp Mackall, a training ground of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The First Brigade, which just returned from a year-long tour in Iraq, were required to take the parachute jump as part the 82nd Airborne regulations in keeping all paratroopers' jump training current. By Chris Hondros/Getty Images.)