Denver - No story is worth a journalist’s life. We are not Navy Seals who can burst into a room and stop a massacre.Writing about genocide has won many awards, but rarely stopped killings.am
Media houses have on occasion refused to send their reporters to places where they might be killed. Often they compromised and sent what are called “stringers,” often foreign nationals who work for them for wages far below what Western reporters get.In fact the two reporters killed in the past month were essentially stringers, paid per piece like factory workers. That makes their sacrifices even more inspirational.But their editors need to realize they may be giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Whether it is Boko Haram in Nigeria or the Columbine High School killers they live and die off publicity.They are Kamakazis, only instead of killing themselves they murder writers who had nothing to do with the real or perceived attacks on their peoples.I remember once having to leave Nigeria after trying to cover what looked like something that would have occurred in the killing fields of Cambodia.Thousands of workers from other regional countries were being forced out at gunpoint, shirtless.I was terrified for them. But when a Nigerian soldier put a gun to my temple I waved my U.S. passport and screamed that I would leave.At that point I was the only white man at this border point.Other reporters came very soon and we were all forced to get in our cars and drive back to Lagos.Once I arrived I relayed word over unreliable phone lines to New York that I would not go back to the Togo-Nigeria border,I went to dinner in the Chinese restaurant at the top of the Eko Holiday Inn. Soon I got a call back from London telling me to get out of town on the first plane. Here are the words I remember.“Nobody cares about that story anyway.”I was out of my room in less than 15 minutes and on my way to the airport. I had no way to call and check on possible flights.When I arrived, after bribing some security guards, I was able to get on a Swiss Air Flight to Zurich, first class.Ten hours or so later I was at the Atlantis Sheraton, listening to cow bells from a Swiss cow.Though I cannot compare my experience with others far braver than me, I am still troubled by having risked my life for a story no one cares about.And I risked my life many more times simply by risking getting malaria, aids, going through road blocks and flying on unsafe planes.