Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Honoring A Fallen Journalist

[Posted by reader_iam]


Judith at Kesher Talk notes that murdered journalist/blogger Steven Vincent is being honored posthumously by the The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which is conferring upon him the 2006 Kurt Schork award.
Both Schork and Vincent gained their reputations reporting from countries relieved of oppressive dictators but in transition to destinies still unknown. Like Schork, Vincent only found his true calling as a foreign correspondent in his 40s, and like Schork, he was killed in action. Like Schork, Vincent refused to strain his reporting through the sieve of ideology; he went where the action was and reported what he saw.

Vincent has been nominated posthumously for many awards, and it upset Lisa that he was never awarded any of them. But being honored in the name of a journalist whom he so much resembled is the best recognition of all.

Nick Gillespie wrote a piece in Reason back in August of 2005, just after Vincent's murder, which moved me deeply at the time and which jumped to mind while I was reading Judith's post a little bit ago. It's well worth reading now, not just in memory of Schork on the occasion of the presentation of a well-deserved, hard-earned honor, but as an opportunity to stop and ponder the ideals and values for which he lived--and died.
Journalism is a profession covered in self-congratulatory myths the way a barnyard is covered in stinking horseshit. It's easy to slip into routinized obituaries, especially about good people who die—are murdered—in the ugliest of circumstances by the ugliest of people. The impulse is to acknowledge the victims' sacrifices and their talents, invoke the righteousness of their lives and your anger, bow your head, wipe away the tear forming in your eye, and then get on with your day. That's a noble gesture—and a necessary one. It allows us to process grief, and if we didn't do that, we'd all be puddles of tears all the time.

But when I think about the murder of Steven Vincent—when I think about those last grim hours he spent in captivity, waiting for the inevitable bullet to his body or the blade to his throat—it's hard to wipe away the tear. His death gives us reason to linger at the gravesite and puzzle over many things. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to know Steven, however briefly and however barely—and, more important, to have published some of his material. He was that rarest of a breed in a profession that supposedly reveres shoe-leather reporting and a dogged pursuit of the truth, no matter where it leads. Unlike most of us, he used reporting to challenge his own beliefs rather than set them in concrete. ... [Emphasis added.]

((Thanks, Judith, for e-mailing us about the award. I'm a little out of touch this week and not making my typical rounds of blogs--or news sites, for that matter--and it would have bothered me to miss this one.)

Update: Here's what Callimachus wrote back in August of 2005 (which was before I started blogging). In an odd coincidence (because of one of Cal's earlier posts today), he mentioned Spirit of America in that post, because it happened to be the organization for which Vincent's family requested donations, in lieu of lowers.