JONATHAN COHN MARCH 21, 2011
The mainstream media is under attack, not just from market forces but also from critics. Sometimes those critics make good arguments. Sometimes they don't. But it's worth keeping in mind that reporting is not as easy as it looks, particularly when it comes to foreign correspondence.
So we're driving to the Cairo airport in Hillary Clinton's very impressive motorcade, and Keith Johnson of The Wall Street Journal, who is sitting next to me, is writing an article on his Blackberry, in the dark, in a speeding van, and his deadline is four minutes away, and he manages to pull it off, while I was doing the only thing I know how to do while driving through Cairo, which is trying not to throw up. I was very impressed with Johnson, particularly because I'm mainly a magazine writer who is given time and solitude to think about the information he has, and what information he's missing. Johnson, and the other daily (and hourly) reporters on the Clinton magical mystery tour through the Middle East are given no time at all to write intelligently, and yet they do. It is always a humbling experience to be around reporters who can perform at this level.
It is also humbling to think about the four New York Times staffers -- two reporters and two photographers -- who have gone missing in Libya. There seems to be a feeling that they might be in the custody of the Qaddafi's government, and this, all things being equal, might actually be not the absolute worst thing. But praying for them is mandatory. Their predicament is a reminder that the people who gather the news for you, particularly in the conflict zones across the Middle East, are risking their lives to perform this most invaluable service, and that they deserve honor and accolades and good salaries and respect from those who criticize and aggregate for a living.
By the way, it sounds like Libya has finally released those four reporters.