Reading my morning paper, I note two things: Mariane Pearl says, "Celebrities are doing the job of journalists," and blogger James Boyce wonders why the American media has deserted us --specifically, in regard to the bloodbaths in Burma.
Where to begin?
I read A Mighty Heart. Thank you Daniel Pearl. I will tell my grandchildren about you someday. Mariane, I reach my arms out to you where ever you are, wanting to hold you close. Danny was a hero-brave until the ruthless-hateful-end, and you dear one are a heroine. You wrote your story without hatred or malice. With that you disarmed the enemy. You obviously have seen enough hate and misunderstanding to last many life times and you clearly know, as Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
It is true celebrities are telling the stories after they are written. Celebrities are not embedded journalists as you and your dear Danny were. You were embedded in the truest sense of the word. The two of you did not act a part, you lived smack in the middle of one of the most dangerous areas of the world after 9/11 and tried to find out who was responsible for it. That is braver than holding any gun and firing.
What Danny Pearl did throughout his career was what all good journalists do. It is what keen intelligence is about. It's making contacts and following leads, and sometimes the lead is a trap. That's just one reason good journalism is dangerous. I still struggle to inhale when I think of Mariane and Danny Pearl together. I feel sick at heart when I think of Danny Pearl's end and the two of them now apart. It seems that Danny was ahead of everyone after 9/11 - certainly the C.I.A. What we all understand now is that Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorists, and in some respects, the most dangerous country in the world for Americans. Danny Pearl was learning who the terrorists were faster than the C.I.A. That's why embedded journalists are essential to understanding our global politics, and it's another reason he wasn't found soon enough to save his life. He was moving in un-charted territory. His bravery was astounding.
When a journalist is embedded, there is no amount of propaganda in any country that can hold back the bonds of friendships made and walls broken down. That leads to understanding. Who--What--When--Where-- is easy, WHY is hard. Understanding WHY is what leads to peace. Danny Pearl tried to write the WHY stories. Ironically, one reason national and local news have pulled reporters out of hot spots around the world was Daniel Pearl's killing.
After Daniel's death, I was preparing to try, like so many journalists, to get into Afghanistan. My boss at the time was a reporter, not a sales person and he believed living in the Bay Area, with a community of more Afghans outside of Afghanistan than anywhere else in the world, we had an obligation to be there. The insurance company did not agree. We were told by Cox Broadcasting that it would take millions of dollars up front to insure me. I could not go.
In today's Media corporations, it all gets down to money. Can the station still sell commercials without the coverage from Afghanistan? Yep, you bet your chador it can. If you throw in some celebrity news instead of tragic stories around the world, the ratings might even go up.
What about responsibility for informing the public? If the media corporations don't inform but instead create more chaos because there are no first hand accounts--this fragile democracy I fear will become even more uninformed, more fragmented, more racist, more homophobic, more xenophobic and celebrity obsessed.
Daniel Pearl complained in one of his emails that a clearly biased story was making news in Pakistan. It was explosive in content and was reported as fact in the Pakistani news. Are we really so far away from the same thing? Without reporters on the scene, there are no objective eyes. There is no objective voice. There is mis-information that could lead to World Wars swirling around our lives in cyberspace and in newspapers and on the mostly corporate owned airwaves. Brave embedded reporters like Danny and Mariane can give us perspective, but they also risk their lives doing it.
Reporters also ask themselves-- if I risk my life to inform the world, will it make a difference? Will the world care or will Americans turn on their computers and read the celebrity news before they read a first hand account of what's happening in Burma, or Pakistan, or Iraq. Perhaps Americans are so overwhelmed they will tune out the news all together. It's work these days to keep a democracy alive. Knowledge and participation takes more and more time. But, what is the alternative?
If it does not contribute to the bottom line, it is not important to most media corporations. When the Rupert Murdoch's of this world own The Wall Street Journal I'm afraid this fragile democracy is screwed. Watch the documentary Out Foxed.
Then encourage and contribute to non-profit news organizations.