The duty of a journalist


I have been in France for the past week, and in Germany the week before that, so I’ve had little time for paying attention to the news.

It’s not that I have purposely avoided the news. It’s just that with so much beauty and history to consume, it’s difficult to find the time for news.

If this were the US, I would at least listen to NPR in the car as I travel, but I tried finding the BBC in the car as we were driving through France, all to no avail. It may have been the BBC for all I know, but I don’t speak French.

Or understand it.

Not knowing the language of the country you reside in can be a huge barrier to daily living.

I have to rely on others to help me figure out what to eat, and how to pay for it.

And don’t even get me started on the challenges of traipsing around a country whose road signs you can’t understand.

Thankfully, the French and Germans are a welcoming and patient lot. They have welcomed me warmly and not laughed too loudly at my bumbling ways. Their mannerly warmth makes me wonder, do they receive the same sort of hospitality when they visit our country?

We have all sorts of ways to fence others out. Language is just one of the most obvious ways.

Economic means is another way by which we distinguish ourselves from each other.

Lorraine Hansberry shed light on that particular distinction when she spoke to the havesand the have nots in her play, A Raisin in the Sun. 

Of course a person doesn’t have to have access to news to figure out that such barriers play a big part in what accounts for all the warring we do in this world of ours.

Bayeux – a town that may be my favorite in France – is devoted to the remembrance of war, and what such wars exact from humanity.

In fact, a lot of the town’s commerce is intricately tied to such remembrances.


Bayeux has been inhabited since the 1st century B.C. The city was nearly destroyed by the Vikings in the 9th century.

These are a people who know something about humanity and its propensity for warring.

In Bayeux hangs a 1,000-year-old tapestry that tells the story of William the Conqueror, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, and the wars they fought.

And, just west of the cathedral, there is a garden full of white roses (my fav) and elongated stones engraved with the names of all the journalists who have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom. Journalists are not generally regarded as warriors. My friend Joe Galloway is as good a soldier as any I know. Although, he never enlisted, was never drafted, he’s been to war for several tours of duty. His handbook is the First Amendment. His pen, his sword. His intellect, his power.

It is sobering to stand before the panels and to read the names of Ernie Pyle and Daniel Pearl, and then to read the day’s headlines: Iraq veterans question the purpose of war. 

Questioning the purpose of war is the very thing journalists should be holding Congress and the president accountable for prior to any invasive action.

It is the job of a journalist to question the need for war.

Many have died trying.

But, imagine if they hadn’t.

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