Sunday, January 15, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - A writer's risk

I'm still catching up on posting last week's London Free Press columns to the blog. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts on them. I hope you're finding this process an enlightening one (please let me know either way.)

One more to go after this one. Enjoy.

One of the things I like about writing for a living is the ability to turn the focus inward on occasion. I don't think I'd enjoy what I do as much as I do if I couldn't get personal every once in a while.

The flip side of that is you always run the risk of angering someone you've never even met. Journalists make nice targets for the criminals among us because they're so visible and accessible. I've touched on this in recent entries (see the post script below for a link), and the feedback I've received on the blog made this latest topic choice for the column an easy one.

Here's what I scribbled.
Live by the quill, die by the quill
Published Friday, January 6, 2006
The London Free Press

The popular perception of journalists is that they have it easy. Make a few calls, tap out a few words, call it a day.

Nice work if you can get it, right? Wrong.

It turns out covering news for a living can hasten your demise. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 47 of us were killed in 2005.

Despite the popular perception that most victims lost their lives on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the sad truth is over 70 per cent were deliberately murdered.

Writing can get you killed. I must have missed that class in journalism school.

I’m not a paranoid person, but whenever I receive a spooky e-mail or phone message in response to something I’ve written, I wonder about the vulnerability of anyone who writes for a living.

The fact that people die in the process of keeping us informed underscores just how important a free press is to a functioning democratic society. It’s something I keep in mind every time I pick up my pen.

Post script: If you haven't read about the reader who called me at home the day after this piece was published, click here. Irony and prescience; quite the combination.

Your turn: No question this time out. I would simply ask that you allow this to settle on your mind for a moment, and that you read bylines a little more closely to get a better appreciation of the brave souls out there who set everything aside to ensure we are informed. The idealism with which I entered this profession seems to be alive and well all these years later.


Bubblehead said...

Nothing says freedom like free press. I admire all of you who bare your souls in print in order to keep everybody "in the know". Keep up the good work. And I swear I will never drop by for Tea unannounced.

Thanks for stopping by Bubblehead, as usual. Your comments are always thoughful and appreciated.

Plumkrazzee said...

Terrible statistic. I, for one, have ALWAYS thought journalists were some of the most courageous people out there. Not just because they tromp through battlefields, but because they take risks with a much mightier weapon: Their words. Keep up the stellar work.

By the way, I had to change my URL. I'm now at

Ta ta!

Raehan said...

I wish there were more brave ones like you, Carmi.

Sometimes it seems like a rare breed...journalists that are willing to report the real news. Do you know what I mean.

I truly believe that those who do are the biggest kind of heroes.

kenju said...

The few times I have responded to a column in our paper, I have used email. It would never occur to me to bother someone at home!

You are not paranoid, Carmi. A good piece of advice given to people planning weddings is that they always plan to have a "house sitter" during the wedding weekend. All too many thieves read the papers looking for houses that might be vacant due to family clebrations. Same holds true for funerals, I am sad to say.

tommy said...

just curious on the 47 number, is it worldwide? I've been some places where a journalist publishing an unauthorized article would most likely lead to his death. Some places sanctioned, some places probably even officially sanctioned. I suspect if it's a worldwide number, it's probably fairly low and not all that accurate a number. But I'm just guessing and don't have anything to support the argument other than observations from around the world. Investigative journalism isn't likely to be appreciated by the investigated party.

Michele sent me.

Suburban Turmoil said...

As a former news reporter, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've been threatened more than once. But getting the story out was more than worth the price I've paid for it. And nothing's happened to me yet! :)

Michele sent me. Great column!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This is a frighteningly horrible statistic, Carmi, isn't it? (And the last person I heard about was the NY Times gentlemen who was murdered in Washington, D.C. Maureen Dowd write a beautiful piece about him a few days ago...)
I think journalists on the whole are very very brave people and Thank God there are a lot who have integrity and who truly care with all their being, about wqhat they do and about informing the public like you Carmi!! I hope the God's will always protect you from the Crazies that are out there doing BAD BAD DEEDS to people!!!

daisy said...

Michele sent me to see you, Carmi.

There are nutjobs out there. I don't think they care who they focus there psychic rage on, but journalists are visible so they must get more than their fair share of nutty stalker types. Keep your head down!

Pink Pen said...

yikes. that's scary. Have you considered an unlisted phone number?

I must say you've really reinforced my decision to use a pseudonym. Thanks for your kind words about the excerpt from my short story. :)

Joan said...

One of my best friends is a professional journalist, as well, and I routinely hear about the freaky people who sometimes contact her. Her address and phone number are unlisted, but that doesn't always keep the scary folk away. While she's done some really cool things - like get banned from China for some of her stories, be embedded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and soon to be embedded in Iraq - she has also provided her mother with a list of people to investigate if anything should ever happen to her.

But she's nearly fearless, and is primarily concerned with reporting the truth. She can get any piece of information she wants out of anybody, often without them even realizing that they're being "interviewed." She's brilliant and amazing, and it is through her I first learned to properly appreciate professional journalists.

Thank you, Carmi, for your pursuit of truth as well. May you always have something interesting to write about, and may you always be safe.

(My friend's name is Pierrette J. Shields; googling her name yields some fascinating results, if you're interested.)

PS - Michele sent me today. :)

WendyWings said...

Unfortunetly there are a lot of unstable people out there.That statistic is pretty horrible.
Journalists are often overlooked out there in the frontlines.
Michele sent me today.

Stephanie Davies said...

Michele sent me tonight. You certainly have a lot of interesting and poignant things to say in your blog here, and I truly enjoyed reading through your posts. You can rest assured that I will not drop by for tea, nor call you on the phone. However, I do think you have a great talent in writing and hope that you won't let a few people who don't understand boundaries stop you from doing it :)

Mike said...

Michele sent me. Journalists have a tough job anyways and then you have to worry about running into some crazy person too. i think I will stay in the Operating room.

Mike said...

I think I will stay in the operating room. At least there i don't have to worry about running into some crazy person

amanda said...

Hello, Michele sent me...and I'm thankful for you and others like you that work hard in the name of informing the "little people."

Romanduck said...

I am kind of creeped out, especially since I am a writer. Maybe we can start some kind of call system to make sure each other are okay. hehe.

margalit said...

I think anyone that writes for a living, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, or even blogging, runs the risk of pissing off some nutcase. Being a journalist can be frightingly dangerous work, especially if you're reporting from an area of conflict. I admire anyone that would endanger themselves in order to bring the truth to the public. Hats off to you, Carmi.


Suzanne said...

I think you do a wonderful job of writing Carmi, and move us to all sorts of emotions. I admire this, in writers, but have seen it draw unwanted attention in many writers. One of the bloggers I read frequently mentioned she had hate mail come to her home address. This is scary and bothersome on all levels for obvious reasons.
You have to be careful about what personal information you divulge in print because you just never know who is lurking.