On Being a War Journalist — Francesca Borri in Syria – 7/1/2013

“What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?”

Borri, Francesca.  Woman’s work: The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria.”  Columbia Journalism Review, July 1, 2013.

Every time I publish an eyewitness account from the war, I get a dozen emails from people who say, “Okay, great piece, great tableaux, but I want to understand what’s going on in Syria.” And it would so please me to reply that I cannot submit an analysis piece, because the editors would simply spike it and tell me, “Who do you think you are, kid?”—even though I have three degrees, have written two books, and spent 10 years in various wars, first as a human-rights officer and now as a journalist. My youth, for what it’s worth, vanished when bits of brain splattered on me in Bosnia, when I was 23.

Francesca Borri tells a great story and with this piece has a right complaint and one especially fit to today’s war coverage by an extensive media: we need, must have, cannot live without independent journalists of high integrity.

As noted by Lee Smith’s July 2013 article on “Media Warfare”, perhaps too much of the media, from Al Jazeera to RT is owned by powerful entities with interest in the promotion of propaganda on their own behalf.  This situation goes beyond the old school friction between the local newspaper’s advertising and editorial desks, and the only countermeasure to it — whether I from my cheap Second Row Seat to History anchored on the Internet or Borri and others moving with great independence, well paid or not, — is the writer most free to comment on and speak to power rather than draw a paycheck (a little too directly) from it.

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