Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Publish Day - Beslan, 2 months later

My latest column in the the London Free Press, Beslan suffering knows no bounds, focuses on the aftermath of September’s hostage-taking and subsequent massacre in this Russian town. Through a colleague who went to the wall to ensure I could write this piece (thanks, Olya!), I was lucky enough to gain access to someone who lives in a nearby city (Vladikavkaz) and has visited the stricken town often since

Her stories were unbelievably poignant, which left me with a feeling of enormous responsibility as I wrote the column. I felt my puny little words needed to somehow step up to the plate to do justice to what this stricken town had gone through - and will continue to go through for generations.

My colleague will be sending her a copy of the article: I hope when she reads it she realizes just how much people care.

Interestingly, I used the thesis of disposable headlines as the basis for the column. We tend to forget today's big story when tomorrow's headlines push it off of the front page - and out of our minds. Yet what's always bothered me as a journalist is how stories seem to go on for significantly longer periods of time, and are virtually ignored by the media. It's not a knock against journalism, though. Rather, that's just the way media works: there is only so much space to go around, and that space has to go to the top stories of the day. Ongoing, lingering, quiet suffering typically doesn't garner top-level attention.

I can't change the way the world works. But I can try to redirect the flashlight every once in a while. I hope that's the case this time out.

7 comments:

Oz said...

Nice post and a nice column. It makes me wonder if a "follow-up" paper--or maybe even a section of the regular newspaper--would interest readers.

Lou said...

Terrific story, yet horrifying. How numb we get to the headlines every day. How much world horror can any sane person handle? I want to hide from the news because it just makes me so sad and I feel so powerless to change anything. I felt incredible sorrow while this piece was in the news, but must confess I didn't miss it when it went away ... too close when you have a child of your own off at school and "unprotected". We don't really forget. But how could we possibly ever understand such horrors?

Lou said...

Terrific story, yet horrifying. How numb we get to the headlines every day. How much world horror can any sane person handle? I want to hide from the news because it just makes me so sad and I feel so powerless to change anything. I felt incredible sorrow while this piece was in the news, but must confess I didn't miss it when it went away ... too close when you have a child of your own off at school and "unprotected". We don't really forget. But how could we possibly ever understand such horrors?

Wheelson said...

Regarding disposable headlines, this is the main reason I enjoy reading news on the Internet so much. It's also why I like Wired so much. A news story on Wired has links at the bottom to related stories. It also has links to other related articles and information right in the article itself. It's what hypertext is all about and Wired uses it perfectly.

However, they also combine their technical use of HTML with carefully choosing articles that follow lines of inquiry which allows a regular reader to follow up on headlines without having to do any back page reading.

Red said...

I like your blog, your story, and your writing. Although this story and other stories of recent are a bit sad, what better to make you appreciate your own conditions and what you have than to see/read about others such as this town. I agree with the other commenter that follow up stories are called for. Seems most news reporting agencies are all on top of the "News of the Moment" but like you said, tomorrow there is new, "NOTM" and todays story is forgotten. many times I have wondered waht happened to so and so, or that place...
Oh well, maybe I am strange that way....

Tara said...

I feel the same way when I interview veterans or holocaust survivors. Hope my words can do their experiences justice.

Carmi said...

Thanks, everyone, for your wide-ranging thoughts. I think this column touched a nerve, and I'm really glad I wrote it. I wish the massacre had never happened, but I obviously had no control over that. I guess that's what writer's do: make the best out of whatever happens.

Oz: What a great idea! I may consider that for future column themes.

Lou: There really is no way to understand horrors like this. My coping mechanism is to focus on little aspects of them, things so small and simple that they're easy to grasp. Then we try to rebuild the world one little thing at a time. Holding onto our little people a little more tightly seems like a great place to start.

Wheelson: Thanks for mentioning Wired. I posted about it recently, and feel exactly as you do. It's a great example of superb content supported by innovative use of the medium.

http://writteninc.blogspot.com/2004/11/why-wireds-worthwhile.html

Red: Thanks for your kind words. You're not strange at all: just caring.

Tara: I would dearly love to read some of your work resulting from those interviews. Based on the work I've seen thus far, I'll bet you wrote stunningly poignant pieces, and did them justice in the process.