On why the Onion deserves a Pulitzer Prize:
Its hard to understand why something has the ability to punch you in the figurative gut. Something so far removed from you that it should barely register a reaction. Yet, it steals your breath anyway. That happened to me this week – with a tweet. The offending tweet (from a breaking news thread) said, “Reports: renowned war photojournalists Chris Hondros, Tim Hetherington killed in Libya. Details sketchy; awaiting more.”
I don’t know why this news struck me so very hard. These are not the first journalists to be killed in a war zone – but Tim Hetherington is the first journalist whose work I have studied to be killed so shockingly, and yet so predictably. It registered. It hurt. Not for me personally, it hurt for everyone who knew him. It hurt for the people whose lives he brought to light. It hurt for the stories he won’t get to tell. It hurt because people you admire shouldn’t die. Not like that. At least not in a perfect world. But then again, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be a profession called “War Photojournalist.”
Hetherington is best know for the documentary film Restrepo, which he directed with Sebastian Junger. It was nominated for an Oscar this past winter. I’ve read Junger’s book on the same events as the film – called War, and seen parts, though admittedly not all of Restrepo. It is about the time Junger and Hetherington spent embedded with a group of American soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. My post, Sebastian Junger’s War Zone ruminates on the book and on the topic of war. But looking back on it, I can’t help but feel deeply how little I know about war.
There has been a lot of coverage of Hetherington and Hondros’ deaths, but the People Magazine of it all isn’t the story I hope most people will read to find out about these men, and the circumstances under which they died. Sebastian Junger has a tribute in Vanity Fair written as a personal letter to Hetherington that drips with grief and beauty. Susan Orlean has a post in The New Yorker about Hetherington and what it is to be brave. New York Times war correspondent C.J. Chivers has a post on his personal website, Almost Dawn in Libya: Chris and Tim heading home, that pauses amidst the chaos of tragedy to thank the people and groups that tried so hard to save, and then do right by the fallen photojournalists. These are the stories that I hope people will read. It is a tall order to memorialize the fallen, but these writers give it a damn good try.
I did it. Took the plunge. Succumbed to the peer pressure. I joined twitter. I think I was inspired by the BronxZoosCobra. One of two things will now happen: I will come to regret it, or I will become addicted. Maybe I’ll get more twitter followers than blog followers (not that I don’t love the seven of you immensely.) Here goes my shameless plug: http://twitter.com/ErinPodolak
Fun fact, within 20 minutes of joining twitter, my first follower became Sea World. Nothing against Sea World, I’m just not sure what their interest says about me. Do they follow every person who claims to be a science writer? Or did I just do something special to garner their attention? Fellow science writers, please advise.
Update 4/8/11 – Six days on twitter, and I’ve lost Sea World as a follower. Sad day. I guess my tweets weren’t of interest to them after all. But I do have 10 whole followers, putting my twitter prowess ahead of my blogging prowess by three.
Update 4/18/11 – Complete and total obsession has taken hold. Twitter has bested Facebook in the struggle for my two-second attention span, and I am overwhelmed by the wealth of information I didn’t realize was being traded everyday. I have made it to 22 followers, only five of whom I actually happen to know. I have been Re-Tweeted by the Canadian Research Office – much to my amazement. I am both humbled and nervous about what my tweets will say about me. In my worst nightmare my budding career is brought down by using the wrong #hashtag and offending someone I never even knew existed. Perhaps I am taking my life on the internet far too seriously. It may be time to back slowly away from the laptop.
Chaos has erupted in Egypt this week as protests calling for the removal of the president Hosni Mubarak turned violent. I do not mean to say that the conflict is as simple as pro or anti government groups, I know it is a complex issue. But as a disclaimer, I’m not a political writer, or an international relations writer.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the distinction between television news personalities, and print/internet journalists. I feel pretty strongly that being a TV news anchor, doesn’t necessarily make you a journalist. But then what does make someone a journalist?