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.