Mad Respect for CNN’s Clarissa Ward
The next time you read yet another tiresome attack on “the mainstream media” or see angry criticism of brave journalists doing their jobs, please — think of Clarissa Ward.
At the risk of being pandering, patronizing, or downright sexist, I’m making a bold statement here and now that Clarissa Ward, from CNN, is the bravest and hardest-working television journalist working today. Her recent reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan (and elsewhere) has been breathtaking.
Clarissa Ward is a throwback to earlier generations when war correspondents risked their lives in order to give us the latest news from the front lines of conflict. Sadly, this type of immersive hands-on journalism has faded away, in part due to corporatized profit-driven media, replaced by in-studio analysis, opinions, and a checkerboard of talking heads. Blah. I suspect the decline and disappearance of old-fashioned “war correspondents” have contributed, in part, to the public’s growing indifference and mistrust of mainstream media. After all, standing in a hot zone armed with nothing more than a reporter’s notebook and a microphone creates an undeniable street cred that a “journalist” talking into a teleprompter simply lacks.
Ward has been in Afghanistan for quite a while but she was finally removed from the country yesterday. Things became too dangerous. Since the old government collapsed nine days ago, Ward has been out in the streets night and day (with an equally brave camera crew) interviewing roaming bands of Taliban fighters and giving us the ONLY insight into what life is like in the void of civility. This would be highly risky for any Western journalist to cover. But for a woman, the risks are magnified tenfold. The Taliban’s treatment of women and outright hostility to secularism is a frightening fact and a matter of record. Ward herself admitted being “roughed up” on a few occasions. I can’t even imagine the fear, which must be suppressed in such a direct confrontation with hoards of armed fanatics known to rape and pillage. Oh, and Ward is married and has two kids. Mad respect.
She was interviewed this morning on CNN and talked about the guilt she felt being able to leave chaos behind when millions of others didn’t have that luxury. I view this as the most important quality a great journalist can possess, which is empathy for those you cover. Recognizing fear and terror and conveying those very real emotions to people far removed from any dangers is a rare skill. We need this journalism. It makes us smarter. It gives US empathy.
So, next time you read yet another tiresome attack on “the mainstream media” or see angry criticism of brave journalists doing their jobs, please — think of Clarissa Ward. Better yet, think of the more than 2,500 journalists who have DIED over the last 40 years while doing their jobs and bringing us the news.
They deserve our respect and our thanks.