Journalism Legend Marie Colvin Killed in Syria

English: Map of Syria from the CIA Factbook.
Image via Wikipedia

Here we go again.

This time it is Marie Colvin, a woman in her 50s — both highly unusual features for a war correspondent — who has died while covering the uprising in Syria. She was killed with a French photographer, Remi Ochlik, when the house they were in, in Homs, was shelled.

Colvin lost an eye in 2001 while covering the war in Sri Lanka when she was hit by shrapnel. She saw the man who threw it at her.

Wearing a black eye patch, she went right back to work, doing a job that still — reasonably — terrifies most people.

Here are her own words, from a 2010 address, on why war reporting remains essential:

War reporting has changed greatly in just the last few years. Now we go to war with a satellite phone, laptop, video camera and a flak jacket. I point my satellite phone to South Southwest in Afghanistan, press a button and I have filed.

In an age of 24/7 rolling news, blogs and twitters, we are on constant call wherever we are. But war reporting is still essentially the same – someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen.

We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.

Marie, an American, belonged to an international fraternity whose membership is open only to those somehow willing and able to withstand the insanity and horrors they must witness firsthand in order to tell the rest of us about it.

I lost my eye in an ambush in the Sri Lankan civil war. I had gone to the northern Tamil area from which journalists were banned and found an unreported humanitarian disaster. As I was smuggled back across the internal border, a soldier launched a grenade at me and the shrapnel sliced into my face and chest. He knew what he was doing.

Just last week, I had a coffee in Afghanistan with a photographer friend, Joao Silva. We talked about the terror one feels and must contain when patrolling on an embed with the armed forces through fields and villages in Afghanistan … putting one foot in front of the other, steeling yourself each step for the blast. The expectation of that blast is the stuff of nightmares. Two days after our meeting Joao stepped on a mine and lost both legs at the knee.

I learned abut Marie’s death a few minutes ago when my husband — a career news photographer and editor who has photographed in a war zone himself — came into the bedroom to tell me.

As I logged into Facebook, I read the tribute to her by Borzou Daragahi, another American working in the region for a British paper, the Financial Times, testifying to her generosity and friendship.

I assigned stories to Borzou in 1988, when he was just beginning his career.

When a journalist like Marie is killed, or Joao injured, their tribe — worldwide — mourns. It could have been us, or our husband or wife or son or niece. We know these people and we live in daily fear for their lives, even as we rely utterly on them to do their terrifying and dangerous jobs.

16 thoughts on “Journalism Legend Marie Colvin Killed in Syria

  1. crgardenjoe

    A second sad recent reminder of the high price members of “the tribe” pay to bring news to the world. The highest calling in journalism is to bear moral witness to unpleasant events. Without these brave women and men who will go into dangerous places to seek out the truth, news media is just celebrity chattering and an opinion echo chamber. You’re tribute is well stated, and I’m also with you that we all would be better off if the opportunity for such powerful writing were not presented.

  2. Pingback: The Tribe Has Lost Two Valuable Members | Crgardenjoe's Blog

  3. I heard about her death this morning, and it made me so sad. Two weeks ago my husband and I were at the Newseum in D.C. and we looked at the wall that listed all the journalists who have been killed while reporting the news. Most people do not realize the number is so high. Without the journalists, though, we would be completely blind about what is happening in these dark places in the world.

    1. It is shocking — and still somehow necessary. There is no way to report the news from a safe, polite distance and without that proximity we are swallowing lies and propaganda.

      As someone perpetually eager for accurate information, analysis and insight, I value excellent journalism very highly. I wish more people — non-journos! — did.

  4. We should all be more thankful for reporters like Marie Colvin who risk their lives – and sometimes lose them – bring us the real situation.
    There is a world of difference between them and those who can only make up or beat up stories where they don’t even leave home.
    Vale Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

    1. Thanks…Sadly, we only seem to notice their work when they are killed. We take it for granted the rest of the time and often it’s only those in the field who know the real risks involved.

      My husband and I have been talking about Anthony Shadid’s death — an asthma attack brought on by proximity to the horses they were to travel with. Clearly, a vehicle wasn’t possible, but what a stupid choice…doing your job safely (somewhat) or using whatever means are at hand. It’s hard to imagine how bad it gets; my husband spent a few December days in Bosnia sleeping in an unheated shipping container while on assignment and wasn’t able to shower for weeks.

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