Monday, April 18, 2005

Confessions of a BBC foreign correspondent 

Almost beyond parody - but at least BBC's Stephen Sackur is honest, and even somewhat contrite for his insensitivity, as he looks back on his career as a foreign correspondent (hat tip: Tanker Schreiber):

"I'm leaving with a host of powerful memories, but my feelings about the job are best distilled in two very different episodes... [On one side, there's a] tendency toward vanity, self-absorption and callousness. Picture for a moment the scene on the morning of the 11 September 2001.

"I was on assignment in Nicaragua, far from my base in Washington DC. I watched the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on a flickering TV. And then I called my wife back home. She was tearful and distraught. Our kids had been rushed out of school in an emergency drill. It felt, she said, like war had broken out.

" 'God this is awful,' I said with feeling. 'I know,' she replied, 'there may be thousands dead'.

" 'I don't mean that', I snapped. 'I'm talking about me. I'm missing the biggest story of my life.'

"Every so often my wife reminds me of that shameful sentiment. But she doesn't need to. I haven't forgotten it."
Here's the other side, which

"came in Iraq. A country especially dear to me, as my wife's homeland. It was there I saw the most distressing sight of my life. Men and women clawing at the earth, uncovering the first of the mass graves discovered after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"Thousands of stinking corpses came out of the ground that day. I saw infants with bullet holes blown through their skulls. I was the only reporter there. I sensed in that Iraqi field that I was a necessary witness, in the right place at the right time."
An experience more journalists should be exposed to.


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