You don’t have to wear a uniform to die in a battle zone. You can simply be carrying a notebook or a camera. As destruction and death surround you, you may die in the simple act of trying to make sense of the terrifying chaos of war, so that you can tell the story to civilians in the safety of their homes, over their morning coffee.
That is a grim possibility for every war correspondent. Some live through it and go on to write critically about war — like Chris Hedges, formerly of The New York Times, who dodged bullets abroad, then wrote antiwar books. And some don’t survive, like Marie Colvin, who had Long Island roots, but worked for Britain‘s The Sunday Times. She covered conflicts in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, to name a few. In 2001, the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade in Sri Lanka cost her the use of her left eye. From then on, she wore an eye patch. On Feb. 22, covering the uprising in Syria, she and French photographer Rémi Ochlik died in shelling by the Syrian army.
Now Stony Brook University‘s School of Journalism plans to create the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, to train foreign correspondents of the future. This is a brave endeavor at a time when staff cutbacks in the media have reduced the number of foreign correspondents far more than war has. The center will not only keep alive the name of an exemplary journalist, but also hold out hope that its graduates will keep telling us the truth that every citizen badly needs to know about war and peace abroad.
May 25, 2012