Nearly 42 years ago, I wrote a letter to ABC news.
A fifth grade student and aspiring journalist, I asked about the danger reporters faced, especially in war zones. I’d been following coverage of the Vietnam War and wanted to know if reporters really were risking their lives in pursuit of the story.
A letter I received dated May 7, 1975, (roughly two weeks after the fall of Saigon) assured me they were.
“When reporting from combat situations such as Vietnam, Cyprus or the Middle East, our correspondents try to exercise as much caution as possible. In most situations, a reporter does not have to be in the middle of the fighting to get the story he’s after. But when a correspondent finds himself under fire, such as Hilary Brown did when she reported from the Newport Bridge in Saigon, the correspondent takes cover as best as he or she can,” wrote Ron Najman, Public Relations Manager for ABC News.
Hilary Brown, one of the first female war correspondents, covered the fall of Saigon and later the Bosnian War, the Rwandan genocide, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon for ABC.
I remembering being very impressed and, honestly, a little horrified, that writers like I wanted to be might actually die in the line of duty. I felt the same way recently when I read “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War,” Lynsey Addario’s excellent book about her experiences as a wartime photographer and relentless pursuer of the truth.
How reassuring to someone like me, who catches up on the days news from the extreme comfort of her own dining room table or living room couch, that people like Hilary, Lynsey and countless other proud members of our fourth estate, risk everything to keep me informed.
The conduit has evolved but the honor of the profession remains. Even as I lament the decline newspapers, I celebrate the news and the brave people who continue to provide it.
Last week, Marquette University celebrated 100 years of student publications. For four of those years, I worked as a very active staff member of the Marquette Tribune. I graduated and worked for the Streator Times-Press and, later, freelanced for several publications. On all of those staffs I enjoyed the company of bright reporters, photographers and editors who worked long hours under tight deadlines to generate and disseminate real news.
I’m as disgusted as anyone at the potential for fake news story, or lazily reported articles, to go viral. But away from all that noise are diligent news reporters and I think it is our privilege to hear, read and see what they have to say.