Does Anybody Really Care About Journalist Safety?
February 04, 2011, 08:17 PM
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NPR the other night was prattling about the dangers to journalists in Egypt. One breathless victim said
"What happened today—I've lived here on and off since 1997—I did not think they had it in them, this kind of violent paranoia and xenophobia," he says. "I've never seen Egypt like this."[NPR Reporter, Other Media Targeted In Egypt, by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro]
You'd almost think he was talking about Tea Partiers—how does "xenophobia" come into it, exactly? But my bigger observation is that nobody really cares about reporters being hurt or killed. It's one of those topics that the media itself—like NPR—thinks is a big deal, for obvious reasons, though by giving us in-depth stories on it, they're confusing their own concerns with the public's concerns.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much how the media works all the time—it's just more acute when they actually cover themselves.

Now, as a former reporter myself, I don't wish journalists harm. I'm sure my own family would have been horrified to see me kidnapped by the Taliban for 7 months like David Rohde (whose story is actually pretty amazing and worth telling, even if some have questioned the use of any military resources to rescue journalists).[7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity—Held by the Taliban - A Times Reporter’s Account. A Five-Part Series by David Rohde, October 17, 2009 ]

But let's not kid ourselves. Journalists are freelance bandits, quasi-official bounty hunters and glory-seekers. One journalism professor at Columbia proudly told his students that he was a "citizen of the world" and had no national loyalties. Journalists' work may better our condition by making us more informed citizens and blah blah blah, but that's largely a byproduct of the central aim of the foreign correspondent: to live exciting, fulfilling lives on the edge of danger, and maybe win some fame in the process.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. But calling them selfless heroes just doesn't pass the Slats Grobnik test.