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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

It's probably not the worst job in Iraq.

But being a reporter for a Western media is definitely not one of the best — or easiest — jobs, either.

Farnaz Fassihi recently ended three years of reporting from Iraq for the Wall Street Journal. Besides the stories she filed, she was also the author of a widely circulated email two years ago, in which she complained in detail about the limitations she had to work under in Iraq. Despite those conditions, however, Fassihi left the country with a firm belief that the presence of the international press in Iraq is essential for the true story of events to get out to the rest of the world.

This past weekend, Fassihi was interviewed by Bob Garfield on the US public radio program On the Media. Here's part of the interview:

Farnaz Fassihi in Afghanistan

Fassihi during an earlier assignment in Afghanistan.
[Photographer unknown]
BOB GARFIELD: As you look back, is it worth it?

FARNAZ FASSIHI: Bob, we're the only independent observers of this war. If it weren't for us, the world would rely on the governments to give them information of how things are going, or the military. I think it's certainly not the most gratifying way of doing our job, but I still think it's hugely important that we maintain as independent observers and try to tell the story of what's happening there, in our best ability.
BOB GARFIELD: You spent, all told, approximately three years in Iraq, from before Saddam was toppled to the present.

FARNAZ FASSIHI: Mm-hmm [AFFIRMATIVE].

BOB GARFIELD: Is there a possibility that three years working under those conditions somehow colors your journalistic perceptions in a way that you lose your journalistic distance?

FARNAZ FASSIHI: I was fortunate to be there around the first year where I could travel freely and really get to know the country, so I think that really worked to my advantage. I think it was a unique war for journalists because the barrier that separates you as an independent journalist and the war and the danger dissolved in Iraq. We were just as much a target. Where we lived came under target. We were kidnapped. We had no immunity. Sometimes it felt like nobody saw value to having reporters there. So I think that part of it was difficult, to try to work around that challenge.

BOB GARFIELD: When you read criticism of the press in general, that it is somehow so fixated on bad news that it doesn't report the good, that it's essentially suppressing the good news out of Iraq, what do you all say to one another? How do you react?

FARNAZ FASSIHI: I can just say that if there were five car bombs going off in New York and 50 people kidnapped a day, I'm sure that metro reporters would be writing those stories and not talking about the school that was painted. When you're sitting in Iraq and putting your neck on the line to try to bring as balanced a story as possible, it's very frustrating to hear criticism like that, because you know, as a professional reporter, that the only reason you're there is because you want to convey the truth. And I can say that everyone is trying to go out their extra mile to find out exactly what's happening there, good or bad, to try to find progress, obstacles, frustration. And I think, considering, we've done a pretty good job. I'm proud of what my colleagues have achieved. [All emphasis added]

You can listen to the interview with Fassihi here, and read the full transcript here.

Via Romenesko.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:07 AM | Get permalink




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