03 March 2012

Robert Fisk on Journalists and Heroism

I came across this provocative essay on war journalism by Robert Fisk at The Independent. I have repeated posted on the deaths and other travails of Western journalists. I've also repeatedly posted on the propensity to ignore the dead and wounded - whether they were intentional targets or "collateral damage" - of American military adventures. My point in commenting about the various risks and actual costs of reporting on conflicts and violence is that absent the willingness of reporters to do so we would typically be even more ignorant than we are about events in the world.

I think Fisk's essay is astute, but it risks condemning journalists for doing their jobs. Only at the end do we get the proper target clearly in focus - the news outlets that define for journalists what their job actually is. Which conflicts get covered? Why? Sontag is only exaggerating slightly when she complains that a war without photographs never really happens.
Update (4 March 2012): Ironically, I somehow missed this piece by Tyler Hicks that appeared in The New York Times yesterday. In it, Hicks, a photojournalist, relates his experience with Anthony Shadid, a celebrated journalist who died last week covering the ongoing war in Syria. It seems to me that Fisk and Hicks are in conversation and we are eavesdropping.

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