|by Jim Amidon • October 1, 2004|
Each time I drive on highway 36 through Parke County, I notice the signs that read “Ernie Pyle Memorial Highway.” I’ve been to Dana, Indiana to see Pyle’s home and the museum of his memorabilia housed there.
Pyle was the legendary war correspondent whose words—more like poetry—let Americans feel what it was like to work, live, and die on the front lines in war time. Pyle himself was a war casualty.
Today the media has changed. People like Pyle simply do not exist and front lines’ reporting is nothing at all like it was in his day. War reporting today is more political and less personal. It’s easy to forget about the realities of a nation at war half a globe away.
Pyle wouldn’t let us forget the faces and names; but his breed of journalism died when he did.
The closest we may have come to Pyle’s style in modern times was David Bloom’s ride to Baghdad in the “Bloom-mobile.” Bloom, an NBC Today Show morning host, made the war personal. His reporting was filled with blowing sand, dirt, blood, and tragedy. Like Pyle, Bloom was himself a casualty of war; he died en route to Baghdad.
I really like the personal side of reporting news. That’s probably why I write a weekly column for this paper and earn a living in public relations. I can tell the Wabash story as I see it; through my eyes, ears, and gut.
But I do wonder what it’s really like on the front lines. To report on such a politically charged conflict like we have in Iraq would be both exhilarating and frustrating.
This Wednesday, I’ll have the opportunity to meet a reporter who has spent the last several years covering the Middle East when Ethan Bronner of the New York Times pays a visit to Crawfordsville.
I hope you, too, will plan to attend his public lecture in the Fine Arts Center Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. There is no charge for admission, and based on the title of his talk—“Covering the News in the Middle East: Dilemmas of an American Journalist”—it’s sure to be thought provoking.
Regardless of what you think about the New York Times, make it a point to listen to Bronner’s lecture. I sense he’ll tell us what it’s really like over there; there are no senior managing editors on hand to edit his lecture! I imagine he’ll be open for questions after the talk.
Bronner has been around the block, too. He began with the very respected Reuters news service in 1980, working in Jerusalem, London, Madrid, and Brussels. Later he spent 13 years with the Boston Globe, covering a range of stories from the Supreme Court in Washington to Middle East politics from Jerusalem.
In 1997, Bronner began writing about education for the New York Times . That’s when I began to follow his byline with hopes that I might some day convince him to take a trip to Crawfordsville to investigate a unique college for men called Wabash.
He never took the bait, and in 2001 he became an editor in the paper’s investigative unit, focusing on the terrorist attacks of September 11. A series of articles he helped edit won a 2001 Pulitzer Prize.
After a couple of years as assistant editor of the editorial page focusing on foreign affairs and law, Bronner assumed his current post as deputy foreign editor of the New York Times.
Guys like Ernie Pyle don’t exist these days, and I think it’s too bad. But I am thrilled that Wabash will host Ethan Bronner for his take on the issues in the Middle East and the difficulty in reporting on them.
Come listen and learn, question and debate. It’s not often we have such a rich opportunity so close to home. Don’t miss it.