At Gate A3 at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, waiting to board a connecting flight home to Washington, D.C., one of our star former students from Georgetown University, Erin Delmore, shared with us a disturbing email that related the awful news that CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan, 38, "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers."
The subject line of the email: "This feels like a kick in the gut."
Indeed, as co-directors of the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigative reporting project at Georgetown University that has mostly included young women students, reporting on journalists targeted and killed in the line of duty, we were stunned by the news.
The sexual brutality that Logan suffered casts a pall upon all of us in the journalism industry, but also upon us, as educators, as we send enterprising women journalists into the world. From Nepal to the Democratic Republic of Congo, women journalists are increasingly being targeted as they take the lead in reporting important investigative stories, according to reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists. That includes sexual attacks, says CPJ, and we have to do whatever we can to protect them, in body and in spirit.
In nations such as India and Pakistan, sexual harassment and public fondling and groping of women is known as "Eve teasing," and it's used as a way to keep women indoors. In places such as the Congo, rape is being used as a weapon of war, and we see now from Logan's fate that sexual assault is being turned against journalists, too.
In transit in Atlanta, we were returning from a pilgrimage to Oklahoma City, the hometown of a daughter of an Oklahoma newspaper family, Edith Kinney Gaylord, a woman who set off in the summer of 1942 for New York City, becoming the first female employee on the general news staff off the Associated Press, covering Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Gaylord, who died in 2001, was the benefactor of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, a nonprofit organization, that began funding the Pearl Project in 2007, when we began investigating the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal South Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl in Karachi, Pakistan.
Our "fairy godmother," as we call her, is Marian Cromley, 83, a contemporary of Gaylord's and a retired journalist now on the advisory committee of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. They are among the bold, courageous women who walked into the men's club of traditional American journalism and made it so there was room for the next generations of women, from us to Logan and our students.
With us on this pilgrimage: Delmore, 24, and Jessica Rettig, 23, two of the 32 students we had in the Pearl Project. Of those students, so many--22--were women that we sometimes called ourselves "the Nancy Drew Detective Agency." In the Huffington Post, Marie Claire's editor-at-large Abigail Pesta wrote about our students as "the women who chase terrorists." Many of our former students, including these two young women, have followed in Gaylord's steps, launching successful careers at national media outlets, setting their sights on lives as foreign correspondents.
In Oklahoma City, our former students shared with students at Oklahoma University's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication how they had reported on Pearl's murder. Last month, we released a report, "The Truth Left Behind," chronicling the web of militants who trapped Danny, kidnapping him off the streets of Karachi. A sea of enterprising journalists, about half of them women, asked us probing questions.
We ventured the next day to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, where a member of a rescue team, "Team 5" from the April 19, 1995, bombing of the federal building had written on the wall of the museum, "We search for truth." There, we met a group of mostly female students from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Ok., who had left their homes at dawn to come to our 9:30 a.m. talk. Delmore and Rettig told them about their tales from trenches of reporting about international terrorism.
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