The Risky Business of Journalism


he dramatic escape from his Taliban captors by New York Times correspondent David Rohde shows just how dangerous journalism can be.

Yet journalists keep getting trashed, mostly from the right wing, for supposedly being biased or dim-witted dupes. Many actually work very hard risking their lives for little fame and, these days, less and less money. Instead of being spoon-fed information by sources with specific agendas, many painstakingly dig up information without fear or favor and put the pieces together as best they can before going into print, on the air or online.
Rohde, a two-time Pultizer winner, knew the risks when he arranged a dicey interview in Afghanistan. He was kidnapped and held prisoner with two others for seven months. Waiting when the guard was down, he and another man scaled a prison wall and and raced to freedom.
Much of the danger is overseas. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that during this year alone. 17 journalists have been killed. Since the early 1990s, 138 have been killed in Iraq, 60 in Algeria and 50 in Russia.
I am especially sensitive to Russia since I worked as a foreign correspondent there for a total of six years in the 1980s and 1990s and know some of the dead. I will never forget the coup against Boris Yeltsin on Oct. 3 and 4, 1993 where much of the action took place just outside our apartment.
I’ll never forget the night of Oct. 3 when I drove alone in my Russian-made car (sort of like a 1972 Fiat) to the country’s TV complex. Skin-head “red-brown” thugs, some with Afghanistan War experience, were trying to break into the TV center to broadcast their propaganda that the Yeltsin government had fallen. Loyal troops held fast instead. A small crowd of journalists watched from very close quarters. Rebels tried to bash their way in with a truck. Finally, one launched a rocket-propelled grenade into the front door. Machine guns on both sides opened up.
This occur ed minutes before I was driving to the tv complex. People were cowering on the roadway. I heard the machine guns and watched their tracer rounds make distinct lines from either side of the darkened road. The tracers crossed just at a point a few hundred yards where my car was heading. With no armor plating and armed with only a notebook, I turned around. Four journalists, including a Briton,. were caught in the bloodbath and were shot dead. A New York Times photographer was shot in the lungs. Three more would die before the two-day rebellion was over.
Here are some more examples of death in Russia:
  • Cynthia Elban, an American stringer for Time, died in Chechnya in 1994. Her head was blown off in an air raid by Russian planes.
  • A friend of mine and a Russian investigative reporter, Yuri Shchekochikin, died mysteriously of “allergies” in 2003 just as he was to fly to the U.S. to interview the FBI about Russian organized crime. High-spirited Yuri was a kind and entertaining man. A great drinking buddy.
  • Paul Khlebnikov. An American of Russian descent, he had written critically of the Russian oligarchs and won their wrath. As he was starting a Russian edition of Forbes, he was shot down in an apartment. He was an acquaintance of mine.
  • Anna Politkovskaya, famed for her tough articles on Russian government and military corruption in Chechnya, was gunned down near her apartment.

There are many more. None of these people took freedom of the press lightly. They paid for it with their lives.

What about the here and now in the U.S. Frankly, I am scared that the ad-slammed, dumbed-down and otherwise almost-out-of-business news media industry in this country will continue trends to not do investigative reporting and will only print or broadcast what powerful institutions, such as governments, corporations or universities want them to. I am already seeing it happen.
Peter Galuszka

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4 responses to “The Risky Business of Journalism”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Scaffolders and Steeplejacks, deep sea fishermen, bomb disposal experts, ejection seat test pilots, oil and gas riggers, underwater welders. Any kind of construction, Agriculture, Forestry, Any kind of transportation work.

    And you think journalism is risky?


  2. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Not as risky as those jobs.
    I just get sick of journalist bashing.

  3. i feel the gravity of the story and as a journalist i concur that this profession is not easy.

  4. I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting as well as very informative, i was need such type information, which you have submitted. I really thankful to you, this posting help a huge number of people. Great … Keep it up!

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