Copyright 1997 Information Access Company,
a Thomson Corporation Company;
Copyright 1997 The Quill
The Quill
May, 1997
SECTION: No. 4, Vol. 85; Pg. 10; ISSN: 0033-6475
IAC-ACC-NO: 19601335
LENGTH: 923 words
HEADLINE: Should journalists be crusaders?
BYLINE: Kirtz, Bill

Should journalists be crusaders?

Advocacy debate against international backdrop

Can we report human rights abuses neutrally? Objectively? Should we? Is all journalism a form of social intervention? Do we affect every event we cover?

Correspondents from around the world pondered these questions at an International Center for Humanitarian Reporting conference.(...)

The man honored as 1993's International Editor of the Year for publishing his Bosnian daily just yards from the front lines praised two American reporters for combining first-class journalism with moral commitment.

Kemal Kurspahic's Sarajevo staff worked seven-day shifts by candlelight in underground bunkers. One of his reporters was killed by people he'd interviewed the day before. The daily published on 16 sizes of paper - anything available - each issue shared by 10 anxious readers.

During all this, he said, "We agonized about being neutral. We worried about balance and objectivity." He found it "a simple task. Our aim should be to report it as it is. Just report what you see and feel, and you'll do your job. There's no case for being neutral, but you can be perfectly objective. No one should be proud of being neutral in the face of genocide."

Kurspahic praised New York Newsday's Roy Gutman and ABC anchor Peter Jennings for serving humanity by diligent reporting. He said Gutman's Pulitzer Prizewinning coverage in the Balkans saved thousands of lives by publicizing mass killings and that Jennings' two hour-long documentaries focused
international attention on "ethnic cleansing" atrocities. (...)

About the center

The International Center for Humanitarian Reporting is a nonprofit organization dedicated to better coverage of conflict resolution, relief and

development efforts and environmental protection. For information, contact American headquarters at 16A Grant St., Cambridge, MA 02138. Tel. 617-491-4771.


Bill Kirtz is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University.

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