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NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITYVOL. 60 NO. 3 FALL 2006Five DollarsGlobal Migration and ImmigrationStories and Images About the JourneyBound to El NorteWords & ReflectionsBooks and Journalism


“… to promote and elevate the standards of journalism”—Agnes Wahl Nieman, the benefactor of the Nieman Foundation.Vol. 60 No. 3Fall 2006NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITYPublisherEditorAssistant EditorEditorial AssistantDesign EditorBob GilesMelissa LudtkeLois FioreSarah HagedornDiane NovetskyNieman Reports (USPS #430-650) is publishedin March, June, September and Decemberby the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University,One Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098.Subscriptions/BusinessTelephone: 617-496-2968E-Mail Address:nreports@harvard.eduSubscription $20 a year, $35 for two years; add $10per year for foreign airmail. Single copies $5.Back copies are available from the Nieman office.Please address all subscription correspondence toOne Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-2098and change of address information toP.O. Box 4951, Manchester, NH 03108.ISSN Number 0028-9817EditorialTelephone: 617-496-6308E-Mail Address:nreditor@harvard.eduInternet Address:www.nieman.harvard.eduCopyright 2006by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.Second-class postage paid at Boston,Massachusetts and additional entries.POSTMASTER:Send address changes toNieman Reports,P.O. Box 4951,Manchester, NH 03108.


Vol. 60 No. 3Fall 2006NIEMAN REPORTSTHE NIEMAN FOUNDATION FOR JOURNALISM AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY4 Global Migration and Immigration6 Journalists Patrol Ever-Changing Borders BY SEBASTIAN ROTELLA7 Migrations: The Story of Humanity on the Move WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SEBASTIÃO SALGADO13 Seeing Stories in What Wasn’t Being Reported BY PHILLIP W.D. MARTIN14 Dutch Journalists Alter Their Coverage of Migrants BY YVONNE VAN DER HEIJDEN AND EVERT MATHIES17 Chinese Migrants: Refreshing Reporting About a Longtime Trend BY MARY KAY MAGISTAD18 Attempting to Bridge the Divide BY HÉCTOR TOBAR20 Watching a Community Changed by Immigration BY LESTER SLOAN23 Documenting Migration’s Revolving Door WORDS AND PHOTOS BY DONNA DECESARE27 Ethical Dilemmas in Telling Enrique’s Story REMARKS BY SONIA NAZARIO30 Immigration to El Norte: Eight Stories of Hope and Peril WORDS AND PHOTOS BY DON BARTLETTI38 Becoming Part of the Story to Tell It to Others BY RALPH ORTEGA39 The Long Journey Captured in Single Moments BY STEPHEN FRANKLIN41 Shrinking Space, Tight Budgets—And a Story Needing to Be Told BY GEOFF BROWN42 Immigrants Grapple With Man and ‘The Beast’ PHOTOS BY HEATHER STONE46 The Tribune’s Stories Reach a Spanish-Speaking Audience BY ALEJANDRO ESCALONA47 A Visual Telling of Immigrants’ Stories BY JOHN OWENS48 Reporting on the Deaths of Those Who Make the Journey North BY SUSAN CARROLL50 Rescue and Death Along the Border PHOTOS BY PAT SHANNAHAN53 Partnership and Perseverance Result in a Story Rarely Told BY TOM KNUDSON55 The Work of the Undocumented PHOTOS BY HECTOR AMEZCUA58 Diffused Voices Demand Different Coverage BY AMY DRISCOLL59 Coming Ashore PHOTOS BY NURI VALLBONACover photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times. See a description of how Bartletti took this image on page 30.


61 Observing the Exodus of Immigrants BY KEVIN CULLEN62 The War of Words BY KATE PHILLIPS64 Don’t ‘Brown’ the Hispanics BY AMITAI ETZIONI67 Data Talk When Reporters Know How to Listen BY STEPHEN K. DOIG69 The Dangerous Numbers Game in Immigration Coverage BY TED ROBBINS71 What’s Old Is New Again BY LORIE CONWAY74 Words & Reflections: Books and Journalism75 Doing an Unenviable Job in an Enviable Way BY MARK JURKOWITZ77 Debunking the Myth of Liberal Media Bias BY BARRY SUSSMAN79 Rethinking Foreign Correspondents’ American Dream BY SAMUEL RACHLIN81 Journalism: Its Generational Passage BY BRENT WALTH83 A New Approach to Reaching Young Audiences BY JUDY STOIA85 Well-Chosen Words Can Weave Tangled Webs BY JULES WITCOVER86 The Making of an Obituary Writer—And a Man BY JIM NICHOLSON88 Lessons of Youth Shape a Writer’s Career BY JIM KAPLAN3 Curator’s Corner: Making Visual What Is Often Put Into Words BY BOB GILES91 Nieman Notes COMPILED BY LOIS FIORE91 Poet Donald Hall Inspires Nieman Fellows BY MIKE PRIDE93 Class Notes100 End Note: A Photojournalist in the Middle East—Images and Memories BY ROBERT AZZI2 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Curator’s CornerMaking Visual What Is Often Put Into WordsFrom the magazine’s pages to its online editions, Nieman Reports is finding new waysto connect with audiences through words and images.By Bob GilesPhotojournalism finds a welcoming home on the pagesof Nieman Reports. On these pages, photo editors havewritten about the difficult decisions they confront inselecting images to portray the Middle East conflict. Here,photographers display their visual storytelling in essaysabout their work. On these pages, journalists reflect on theenduring power of the still image, and their words speakto risks—physical and emotional—that photographers taketo convey an unimaginable range of human endeavors andfeelings. What emerges from their words and images is anawareness of photojournalism as an indispensable part ofstorytelling.Photographs force us to confront the raw reality of war,terrorism, famine, and murder. Images from Darfur andBeirut, Iraq and New Orleans grip our emotions. Editorswhose job it is to select which images go onto a newspaper’sfront page or a magazine’s cover understand the potency ofa single photograph, with its ability to linger in our mindslong after words fade away. Mention the flag raising on IwoJima, the shootings at Kent State, or the Oklahoma Citybombing, and an iconic photograph takes us on a sharedjourney of memory back to that event.In this issue of Nieman Reports a collection of remarkablephoto essays serves as a major part of an extensivereport on the coverage of the migratory journeys of men,women and children who are struggling to reach placesthat hold the promise of a better life. These photographsprovide such powerful witness to the extensive global migrationtaking place in our time—and to their storytellingstrength—that the editor decided to feature them in newways. In all, one third of the stories in this 70-page reporton global migration and immigration are told as essays byphotojournalists.This circumstance reflects the evolving nature of NiemanReports. Since its inception in 1947, the magazinehas gradually altered its content and design, while holdingsteady to its purpose—to provide a forum for an ongoingconversation among journalists about their roles and responsibilitiesin an ever-shifting media environment. EditorMelissa Ludtke describes the strength of Nieman Reports asit being among the few places where journalists writing outof their own experiences and sharing their insights aboutcovering events and issues are able to exchange informationwith their peers about challenges and opportunities theyfind in their common pursuit.From its modest beginnings, the magazine continues tobe published quarterly, but through the years it has grownto more than 100 pages per issue. With this expanded sizecomes the opportunity to identify broad journalistic themesor important contemporary issues and devote the spacenecessary to convey the varied perspectives of reportersand editors, photojournalists and filmmakers, as well asbloggers and citizen journalists.During the past year, the look of the magazine has begunto change. Under the creative direction of designer DianeNovetsky, some changes are being introduced in this issue inthe use of type and the display of photographs. In bringinga more contemporary look to these pages, an effort is beingmade to strike a balance between important traditions thatgive Nieman Reports its unique sense of place and purposeand visual changes that will serve to improve and strengthenits relationship with readers. In future issues, readers willlikely begin to notice what is new and different about themagazine’s design.Nieman Reports has a strong and vital presence online,as well. Our archive of articles—sorted by the issue in whichthey appeared—goes back to 1998, and a strategy is underdiscussion that would create a digital archive of all issuessince 1947. Also on the Nieman Foundation Web site 1 arespecial collections of stories from the magazine. The firstof these appeared several years ago when we assembled inone place more than three years of Nieman Reports’ storiesabout the coverage of war and terror.This year we’ve begun to utilize eMprint technology, developedby Roger Fidler of the Missouri School of Journalism,to provide easy-to-read online “magazines” full of relatedstories bundled from our quarterly issues. The eMprinttemplate enables these articles to appear online with thefamiliar characteristics of their printed form while also, insome cases, using multimedia to enhance the reading experience.Now available as eMprint newsbooks are “Journalists:On the Subject of Courage,” “What Katrina Revealed, WillJournalists Now Cover?,” “Newspapers’ Survival,” “The Job ofFrontline Editor,” “Citizen Journalism,” “Intelligent Design,”and “Global Warming,” which appears also in a multimediaedition with the sound and visuals of icebergs cracking. 2We hope to soon provide ways for interactive exchanges totake place on the Web. ■1www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/contents.html2www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/05-4NRwinter/NR05W_Global_Warming_MM.pdfNieman Reports / Fall 2006 3


Intro Head Global Migration and Immigration:About the Journey“The border was mysterious, lawless and magical. It was the frontier where cultures collide andblend. And the global future in the making,” writes Sebastian Rotella, as he recalled his reportingfrom the U.S.-Mexico border during the 1990’s. Still with the Los Angeles Times, now as Paris bureauchief, Rotella remains “obsessed with borders” and writes about how he probes the consequences ofimmigration in Europe. “What’s going on in Europe today is, literally and figuratively, a border story,”whether the border is on Paris’s Avenue Champs Élysées or in the Canary Islands. To create his book,“Migrations,” photographer Sebastião Salgado went to where people were on the move; he foundmen, women and children fleeing from poverty and hopelessness and also refugees escaping fromenemies determined to destroy them. “… they allowed themselves to be photographed,” Salgadowrites, “because they wanted their plight to be made known.” A selection of photographs from his bookappears with words about how bearing witness to these migrations changed him.Phillip W.D. Martin, an independent radio producer, describes an upcoming six-part public radioseries entitled “Standing Up to Racism” that is focused on individuals and groups that “are standing upto the intensifying hate in Europe.” This is a story Martin found not being widely reported despite “thismajor societal and political shift taking place.” From the Netherlands, journalists Yvonne van derHeijden and Evert Mathies tell the story of how—in response to a political assassination and internaldiscussions—reporters have altered their coverage of the nation’s large migrant population. From atime when the media ignored migrants, just as migrants ignored the Dutch media, now “the lives ofmigrants and their communities” receive a lot more press attention. Mary Kay Magistad, NortheastAsia correspondent for “The World,” explores the emerging “new attitude toward migrant workers” inthe Chinese news media as they report on “the biggest and fastest rural to urban migration in humanhistory.” Not long ago regarded as “a necessary, if somewhat grubby, embarrassment to the moresophisticated urban citizenry,” now topics such as worker exploitation, harsh treatment by authorities,and worker protests are covered, but within the regulations of the country’s state-run media.Raised in Los Angeles by Guatemalan immigrants, Héctor Tobar, Los Angeles Times Mexico Citybureau chief, describes “the segregation” between journalists and immigrant communities and explainswhy this happens. “The Times’ coverage of immigrant communities is like that of most other papers,” hewrites. “It focuses on cultural conflict, on the ‘otherness’ of the people who live there.” In South CentralLos Angeles, where Latino immigrants are displacing African Americans, photojournalist Lester Sloanbelieves that press coverage inflames tensions; “Journalists owe the community of South Central morethan infrequent scrutiny during periods of chaos,” he writes. Photographer Donna DeCesare peersinside the troubled lives of immigrant youths who turn to gang membership in the United States, thenare deported and bring gang affiliations and activities to Central America. Rarely does she find otherjournalists following this story on what she calls her “lonely trail.”To tell the harrowing journey of Enrique, a Central American boy determined to reunite with hismother living in the United States, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonia Nazario confronted ethical andlogistical reporting issues. She talked about them in a journalists’ forum, including research she didon “what were the legal lines, aside from the moral and ethical lines.” Los Angeles Times photographerDon Bartletti provided the images for “Enrique’s Journey” and writes about his work obtaining those4 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


photographs, as well as other immigration coverage. “It took me three days, trudging in swelteringheat along five miles of greasy railroad ties, to track down this legendary act of kindness,” he writesof one image. To find out how illegal workers obtain necessary documents, Ralph Ortega, areporter with The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, acted as “someone here illegally looking to work,” andhe describes how his experiences were used to tell the story.Chicago Tribune reporter Stephen Franklin proposed a project about the feminization ofmigration when he “could find no articles in any U.S. newspaper that wove the threads of this taletogether.” Four Tribune colleagues—Tribune editor Geoff Brown, photographer Heather Stone,Hoy Chicago Editor Alejandro Escalona, and multimedia producer John Owens—join him inwriting about the variety of ways in which these stories were presented to print, online and televisionaudiences through a strategy of media convergence.Reporter Susan Carroll’s words and Pat Shannahan’s photographs tell of the deaths of(and sometimes the rescue by U.S. Border Patrol of) illegal immigrants near the Arizona border.Unpopular with readers and difficult to tell, these stories require—and receive—support fromeditors at The Arizona Republic. Reporter Tom Knudson and photographer Hector Amezcuabrought usually unheard voices of migrant laborers to readers of The Sacramento Bee as forestworkers told of abuse and exploitation they endured. “We wanted to name names, take pictures, andbring the pineros—the men of the pines—out of the shadows,” Knudson explains. Miami Heraldreporter Amy Driscoll observes that her city’s diverse immigrant communities, with their fragmentedviews about immigration reform, complicate coverage of that issue, and photographer NuriVallbona documents the onshore arrival of a Cuban refugee. Boston Globe reporter Kevin Cullenexplores what happens when immigrants decide to go home; “Could it be, from a cultural standpoint,like removing a species from an ecosystem, altering it forever?” he asks.Kate Phillips, political editor of nytimes.com, examines the carefully chosen language thatadvocates and legislators use to frame the political debate about immigration; she explores howjournalists select the words they use in their coverage. “What language is used in stories andheadlines—and how it is used—matters,” she writes. Sociologist Amitai Etzioni reveals whathe learned about how journalists tend to handle the complex intersection of ethnicity and race ina survey of news coverage about Hispanics. He proposes a new approach to avoid the commonproblem of “turning an ethnic group into a race.” Stephen K. Doig, a specialist in computerassistedreporting, and Ted Robbins, a correspondent with NPR, address in separate articlesthe challenges that data and numbers present to journalists in the coverage of immigration. Doigoffers hints about how best to use a computer and other resources to evaluate data, while Robbinsdescribes how reporters often fail to do the research needed to avoid misusing figures put forth by“agenda-driven organizations” or rely too heavily on unverified assumptions. “… it is imperative toinvestigate how information about these people and the lives they lead in this country is derived,” hesays.Lorie Conway, who is making a documentary film about the Ellis Island immigrant hospital, findsmany echoes in newspapers, cartoons and photographs from the turn of the 20th century to “what wesee published in newspapers” in the early 21st about immigrants. ■Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 5


Migration and ImmigrationJournalists Patrol Ever-Changing Borders‘… what’s going on in Europe today is, literally and figuratively, a border story.’By Sebastian RotellaSoon after the riots last year inFrance, I was reporting in a biggloomy housing project outsideParis known as La Dalle: The Slab.A cold wind rose off the concretelandscape. It was the kind of Decemberday in France when dawn seems to slideinto dusk. I was talking to a group ofangry, restless kids led by a young mannamed Mourad, the French son of aMoroccan immigrant janitor.Mourad’s life seemed relativelyhopeful. He had avoided jail. He hada steady job. He carried himself withquiet dignity. But he was full of the ragethat had burned across the countryfor weeks. He said the riots had beeninevitable, a clash between old nemeses:the youth gangs of the housingprojects and the police who patrol theboundaries between the cobblestonesof middle-class France and the cementof hostile hinterlands like The Slab.“It’s very simple,” Mourad said.“There is a border between here andParis, between rich and poor. And youcan never really cross it.”His words summed up the conflict.And they reminded me that, once again,I was covering a story about borders.In the 1990’s, I covered the U.S.-Mexico border for five years. It was thebest possible experience for an aspiringforeign correspondent. The borderwas mysterious, lawless and magical.It was the frontier where cultures collideand blend. And the global futurein the making. Since then, I’ve rackedup miles in Latin America, Europe andthe Middle East. And I confess that I’mstill obsessed with borders.In some ways, I still feel like a bordercorrespondent. I’m attracted to storiesabout migrants, outlaws, crusaders:people living on the line. And the obsessionhas turned out to be useful.Because what’s going on in Europetoday is, literally and figuratively, aborder story.Immigration is one of the strongestforces at work on the continent and inthe West. The desperate waves of illegalmigrants hitting the Canary Islands,Sicily and Spanish Morocco powerfullyresemble the dramas in South Floridaand at the U.S.-Mexico line.Throughout Europe, the profoundimpact of predominantly Muslim diasporasfrom Africa, the Middle East, andSouth Asia is the future in the making.Theoretically, the European Union haserased borders. But as the conflict overreligious and cultural identity spreads,so do flash points and battle lines.When I was a border correspondent,I learned to move between both sides,quickly and frequently, physically andmentally, while striving for balance. Ilearned to maneuver in gray areas. AndI learned there was no substitute forbeing out in the field, on the street,at the line—talking with migrants andcops and desperados, the gatekeepersof the secret worlds.Those lessons still apply. When Iarrived in Paris as bureau chief of theLos Angeles Times, I went looking forthe border. And I found it in a lot ofplaces. Even on the Avenue ChampsÉlysées.The Champs Élysées did not seemlike a new story at first glance. But oftenthe best stories are the ones on thestreet right in front of you. To me, theChamps Élysées was a frontier. A rareplace where France’s different ethnicand social groups mixed. In particular,the avenue drew groups of black andArab youths from immigrant housingprojects on the edge of the capital andthe edge of society.The kids wandered, warily, throughthe glitter. Many of them were secondandthird-generation French citizens,but they felt like foreigners. Theirpresence generated tension, suspicion,occasional violence. The policewere out in force to keep worlds fromcolliding: a quiet but unmistakableBorder Patrol.Compared to the United States,the big difference of the migrant experiencein Europe, of course, is thecentral role of Islam. It’s one of themain factors that make it difficult forsocieties to accept immigrant communitiesand for the communities toaccept integration.Lessons From the BorderAfter September 11, 2001, when it cametime to plunge into the world of Islamin Europe, I was a neophyte—like somany journalists, academics and lawenforcement officials at the time. ButI tried to remember one of the lessonsof the border. I tried to keep politics,ideology and theory at a healthy distance.You can’t ignore the cacophonyof instant experts, ferocious pundits,and nonstop broadcasts, but it’s bestto be wary of those voices—especiallythe loud ones.Second, as in Latin America, I hadgreat guides: police officers and prosecutorson the frontlines of the fightagainst terrorism. They are inveterateborder-crossers. They have taught meabout the anarchic, elusive reality ofthe extremist networks. I have cometo admire the intellect, dedication anddecency of antiterrorism investigatorsin countries such as Italy, Spain andFrance. They confront the medievalhatred of so-called holy warriors pointblank;that makes them tough. Buttheir nuanced, tolerant view of Islamcontradicts stereotype.Those sources and others haveshown me the dangerous forces convergingon the streets of Europe: thugculture and radical Islam. With the samepower as music or fashion or sports,6 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeythose forces sweep up young peoplewho feel marooned between their immigrantheritage and European societiesin which hardly anyone who lookslike them achieves wealth or power.So they reject the West. They find adefiant badge of identity in extremism,crime or both. We saw the results inthe attacks of Madrid and London andthe French riots.The doomed swagger of some youngholy warriors marching off to jihad remindsme a bit of a street gang in SanDiego who became gunslingers for theTijuana Cartel. I covered that story andits disastrous results, as the gang membersended up becoming embroiled inthe still-unsolved assassination of thecardinal of Guadalajara in 1993. Thereare many differences, of course. Butat some level, both stories are aboutyoung people plunging into a deadlyworld, driven by manipulative forcesthey don’t fully understand.After the riots in France, a veteranFrench detective told me the horizonlooked grim.“There are only two idols in theprojects today,” he said. “Tony Parkerand Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And unlessyou’re a really good basketball player,it’s easier to emulate al-Zarqawi.”Now that describes the reality of aviolent, insular subculture, but it’s anexaggeration. There are bona fide rolemodels in the Muslim and immigrantcommunities of Europe. Many areanonymous. They are working hard,minding their own business, beinggood citizens. Their influence wasclear during the recent uproar over thecaricatures of Muhammad. There wasbloodshed around the world, but not inEurope. Despite alarmist predictions,Europe’s Muslims generally reactedwith restraint and maturity.And there are leaders out there.One is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch legislator who is renownedand reviled for her crusade againstthe abuse of women and for a Muslimenlightenment. Some people questionher approach, but I don’t think anyonequestions her courage. It was ironicto interview her as she lived under24-hour armed guard, a scene morereminiscent of lawless borderlandsthan genteel Netherlands. At the sametime, the authorities struggled to arrestand convict the terrorists determinedto kill her. This year, Hirsi Ali decidedto leave the Netherlands and takerefuge in Washington. But I think shewill remain a strong voice against fearand fanaticism.Another impressive border-crosseris Abd al Malik, a French Muslim rapartist and author. He’s from a notorioushousing project in Strasbourg, aconvert of Congolese origin. He wentfrom small-time gangster to hard-coreIslamic radical to Sufi moderate. Hedescribes his epiphany like this: “Idiscovered that my Islam of the ghettowas just a ghetto of Islam.” Today, Abd alMalik is a street intellectual who mixesthe influence of Raymond Carver andJacques Brel, of Voltaire and Dr. Dre.His music and books express a modelof peaceful, enlightened Islam that isat home in the West.Despite all of the anger and alienation,Malik and people like him inmultiethnic migrant communities areproducing some of the most energetic,creative and potentially influentialculture in Europe today. And that is ahopeful border story. ■Sebastian Rotella is the Paris bureauchief for the Los Angeles Times. In2006 he won the German MarshallFund of the United States award forreporting on European affairs for aseries of articles about Muslims inEurope that were published betweenApril and December 2005.Migrations: The Story of Humanity on the MoveSebastião Salgado photographed the plight these travelers want ‘to be made known.’Sebastião Salgado went to 40 countriesin six years to be among the world’smigrants and refugees so that he couldtell visual stories of their difficultjourneys as they leave their homes forplaces and lives unknown to them.“Many were going through the worstperiods of their lives,” he writes inthe introduction of this collection ofphotographs entitled, “Migrations,”published in 2000. “They were frightened,uncomfortable and humiliated.Yet they allowed themselves to bephotographed, I believe, because theywanted their plight to be made known.When I could, I explained to them thatthis was my purpose. Many just stoodbefore my camera and addressed itas they might a microphone.” Whatfollows are excerpts from Salgado’sintroductory words and then severalphotographs from this collection.The experience changed meprofoundly. When I began thisproject, I was fairly used toworking in difficult situations. I feltmy political beliefs offered answers tomany problems. I truly believed thathumanity was evolving in a positivedirection. I was unprepared for whatfollowed. What I learned about humannature and the world we live inmade me deeply apprehensive aboutthe future.True, there were many hearteningoccasions. I encountered dignity, compassionand hope in situations whereone would have expected anger andbitterness. I met people who had losteverything but were still willing to trusta stranger. I came to feel the greatestadmiration for people who riskedeverything, including their lives, toimprove their destiny. I found it aston-Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 7


Migration and Immigrationishing how human beings can adapt tothe direst circumstances.Yet if survival is our strongest instinct,all too often I found it expressedas hate, violence and greed. The massacresI saw in Africa and Latin Americaand the ethnic cleansing in Europe leftme wondering whether humans willever tame their darkest instincts.I also came to understand, as neverbefore, how everything that happenson earth is connected. We are all affectedby the widening gap betweenrich and poor, by the availability of information,by population growth in theThird World, by the mechanization ofagriculture, by rampant urbanization,by destruction of the environment,by nationalistic, ethnic and religiousbigotry. The people wrenched fromtheir homes are simply the most visiblevictims of a global convulsion entirelyof our own making.In that sense, “Migrations” also tellsa story of our times. Its photographscapture tragic, dramatic and heroicmoments in individual lives. Takentogether, they form a troubling imageof our world at the turn of the millennium.People have always migrated, butsomething different is happening now.For me, this worldwide populationupheaval represents a change of historicsignificance. We are undergoinga revolution in the way we live, produce,communicate and travel. Mostof the world’s inhabitants are nowurban. We have become one world:In distant corners of the globe, peopleare being displaced for essentially thesame reasons.In Latin America, Africa and Asia,rural poverty has prompted hundredsof millions of peasants to abandonthe countryside. And they crowd intogargantuan, barely inhabitable citiesthat also have much in common. Entirepopulations have moved for politicalreasons as well. Millions have fledCommunist regimes. The collapse ofCommunism in Eastern Europe thenfreed many more to seek out newlives. Now, with the imposition of anew world political order, ethnic andreligious conflicts are spawning armiesof refugees and displaced persons.Many of these are becoming urbanizedby the very experience of livingin refugee camps. …Everywhere I have traveled, theimpact of the information revolutioncould be felt. Barely a half-centuryago, the world could say it “did notknow” about the Holocaust. Today,information—or at least the illusion ofinformation—is available to everyone.Yet the consequences of “knowing”are not always predictable. Televisioninformed the world of the massacresin Rwanda or the mass expulsions ofBosnians, Serbs and Kosovars almostas they were taking place, but thesehorrors nonetheless continued. Onthe other hand, North Africans canwatch French television, Mexicans canwatch American television, Albanianscan watch Italian television, and Vietnamesecan watch CNN or the BBC.The demonstration of conspicuousconsumption is such that they canhardly be faulted for dreaming of migration.…Refugees and displaced persons,unlike migrants, are not dreaming ofdifferent lives. They are usually ordinarypeople—“innocent civilians”in the language of diplomats—goingabout their lives as farmers or studentsor housewives until their fatesare violently altered by repression orwar. Suddenly, along with losing theirhomes, jobs and perhaps even someloved ones, they are stripped even oftheir identity. They become people onthe run, faces on television footage orin photographs, numbers in refugeecamps, long lines awaiting food handouts.It is a cruel contract: In exchangefor survival, they must surrender theirdignity.They are also rarely able to put theirlives together again, or at least notas before. Some become permanentrefugees, permanent camp-dwellers,like the Palestinians in Lebanon. Theirlives acquire a certain stability but, asvictims of politics, they remain vulnerableto politics. Some can go home, butchoose not to, having built alternativelives that offer more security. Otherswho do eventually return to their countrieshave become different people,perhaps more politicized, certainlymore urbanized.But no matter what their final destinyis, all are forced to live with whatthey have learned about human nature.They have seen friends and relativestortured, murdered or “disappeared,”they have cowered in basements astheir towns have been shelled, theyhave seen their homes burned to theground. I would watch children laughingand playing soccer in refugee campsand wonder what hidden woundsthey carried inside them. All too often,refugees have little to say in thepolitical, ethnic or religious conflictsthat degrade into atrocities. How canthey be consoled when they have seenhumanity at its worst? …It could be said that the photographsin this book show only the dark sideof humanity. But some points of lightcan be spotted in the global gloom.For example, humanitarian agenciesare able to work among destituterefugees and migrants around theworld thanks to the contributionsof ordinary people. It could also beargued that Western public opinionspurred NATO interventions in Bosniaand Kosovo because of the emotionalimpact of television pictures of burningvillages and massacre sites. And yetin Rwanda, the West saw the killingsand did nothing to stop them. Today,good and evil are inseparable becausewe know about both.But is it enough simply to be informed?Are we condemned to be8 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeylargely spectators? Can we affect thecourse of events?I have no answers, but I believe thatsome answers must exist, that humanityis capable of understanding, evencontrolling, the political, economicand social forces that we have set looseacross the globe. Can we claim “compassionfatigue” when we show no signof consumption fatigue? Are we to donothing in face of the steady deteriorationof our habitat, whether in citiesor in nature? Are we to remain indifferentas the values of rich and poorcountries alike deepen the divisionsof our societies? We cannot.My hope is that, as individuals, asgroups, as societies, we can pause andreflect on the human condition at theturn of the millennium. The dominantideologies of the 20th century—communismand capitalism—have largelyfailed us. Globalization is presented tous as a reality, but not as a solution.Even freedom cannot alone addressour problems without being temperedby responsibility, order, awareness.In its rawest form, individualism remainsa prescription for catastrophe.We have to create a new regimen ofcoexistence.More than ever, I feel that the humanrace is one. There are differencesof color, language, culture and opportunities,but people’s feelings andreactions are alike. People flee wars toescape death, they migrate to improvetheir fortunes, they build new lives onforeign lands, they adapt to extremehardship. Everywhere, the individualsurvival instinct rules. Yet as a race, weseem bent on self-destruction.Perhaps that is where our reflectionshould begin: that our survivalis threatened. The new millennium isonly a date in the calendar of one of thegreat religions, but it can serve as theoccasion for taking stock. We hold thekey to humanity’s future, but for thatwe must understand the present. Thesephotographs show part of this present.We cannot afford to look away. ■PHOTO ESSAYHumanity’sJourneyBy Sebastião SalgadoWith billions of dollars of foreigninvestment during the 1990’s, Vietnambegan a period of rapid urbanization.This inevitably has stimulatedmigration to cities where, as always,the construction industry is the mainemployer for unqualified labor. Ho ChiMinh City, Vietnam. 1995. © SebastiãoSalgado/Amazonas/Contact Press Images.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 9


Migration and ImmigrationTijuana stretches eight miles east fromthe sea. In coastal cities, the populationis usually concentrated near thesea, but in Tijuana growth has tendedto follow the border with the UnitedStates. This is because illegal migrantswho are caught by the Border Patroland returned to Mexico often set uptemporary homes—no more thanshacks—within view of the border.Some eventually succeed in enteringthe United States; others find work inTijuana and settle, a few decide to trytheir luck farther east by crossing themountains or deserts of California andArizona. Tijuana, Mexico. 1997.In the region of Kivu, from Bukavuto Goma, roads are filled with peopleheading for refugee camps. Sometimesthey pass several camps before findingone where they can stay. In just a fewdays at the end of July, more than onemillion people crossed the border intoZaire (today Democratic Republic ofthe Congo) and camped in and aroundGoma. This is the road between thecamps at Kibumba and Munigi, Zaire.1994.All photographs and captions © Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas/Contact Press Images.10 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyWith their men away in the cities, women carry their goods to the market of Chimbote.Most migrants head for Ecuador’s mountain capital, Quito, or for the coastalcity of Guayaquil, provoking rapid growth of slum areas in these centers. For example,Guayaquil, which has over two million inhabitants, saw its population grow by200,000 between October 1997 and September 1998. Many Ecuadorians have alsoleft the country. The Quito daily, Diario el Comercio, has estimated that one millionEcuadorians reside in the area of New York, with another 150,000 living in Spain;many are also in Canada. Region of Chimborazo, Ecuador. 1998.All photographs and captions © Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas/Contact Press Images.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 11


Migration and ImmigrationIn July 1994, around 245,000 RwandanHutu fled into Burundi. Movingin the opposite direction were tens ofthousands of Rwandan Tutsi, returningto their country after 40 years of exilein Burundi. Most Hutu settled closeto the Rwanda border in the region ofNgozi, in northern Burundi, quicklyfilling refugee camps organized by theUnited Nations High Commissionerfor Refugees and the Belgian branchof Médecins Sans Frontières. Thesecamps were peaceful until late March1995 when ethnic troubles erupted inBurundi. … [O]n March 31, 1995,Tanzania closed its border with Burundito prevent another huge influxof Rwandan refugees (it had alreadytaken in some 600,000). These fleeingrefugees had already walked 25 miles,but they were stopped and a precariousnew refugee camp was founded. Mostof the refugees were still hopeful thatthe border would soon reopen.Burundi. 1995.All captions and photographs ©Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas/ContactPress Images.About 40,000 refugeesare trapped in the villageof Lula, four miles fromKisangani. They wereblocked by [rebel leaderJoseph] Kabila’s forcesas they moved towardsKisangani in the hope ofreceiving food, medicalassistance, and UnitedNations protection. Thisphotograph was takenalong the railroad tracknear Lula. Many refugees,particularly children,are in dire shape.Some humanitarianagencies are nonethelessable to reach them withemergency medical assistance.Zaire.March 28, 1997. ■12 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneySeeing Stories in What Wasn’t Being ReportedA public radio series explores the growth of the antiracism movement in Europe.By Phillip W.D. MartinSince the fall of the Berlin Wall,Europeans have experienced aresurgence of neofascist and racistideology among various segments ofthe region’s population. In the manystories done about this situation, muchof the attention has been paid to theracist “skinhead” movement, specificallygroups living in the eastern halfof Germany, Russia and Poland. Skinheadsthere have been responsible forhundreds of violent, sometimes fatal,attacks on immigrants of African andArab descent, refugees from the Balkansand Asia, Roma people, Jews andthose generally regarded as “other.”And as Europeans—those who livein both Eastern and Western Europe—wrestle with burgeoning immigrantpopulations and their integrationinto society, millions of them are alsoturning to extreme right-wing politicalparties as a solution to what they seeas the immigrant “crisis.” Crime, housingshortages, chronic unemployment,and general misery are seen by many asthe logical conclusion of shortsighted,porous immigration policies flowingfrom traditional liberal-democraticidealism.Yet while baldheaded youth sportingblack shirts and intemperate individualslike France’s ultra-right politicianJean-Marie Le Pen reap the attentionof American news consumers, a looselydefined grass-roots, antiracism movementis working largely unseen andunknown to counter the proponentsof hate. It is the story of this Europeanmovement that I will be explaining topublic radio audiences in a six-partseries I am reporting and producing.Developing the IdeaThe idea for developing such a publicradio series—a collection of storiesabout people and organizations thatare standing up to the intensifyinghate in Europe—began like many otherideas do: I observed what wasn’t beingreported about this major societal andpolitical shift taking place. As I surveyednewspapers and magazines both inEurope and in the United States, Icould find little being reported aboutthe activists, the human rights workersand professionals who work in theshadows. This was in great contrast tothe level of attention heaped on activistsin the United States during its mostchallenging period of racial conflict.In 1963 when Martin Luther King, Jr.delivered his “I Have a Dream” speechto a crowd of 260,000 in Washington,D.C., millions of Europeans heard hismessage as the March on Washingtonwas broadcast on Voice of America, theBBC, and other radio networks. Andduring the civil rights movement, Europeansrecoiled in horror at the bloodyscenes from the American South andcondemned what they were witnessing.Back then, fewer than two decadesremoved from the Holocaust, manyEuropeans saw themselves incapableof such extreme racism. But in recentyears, as the backlash to immigrationhas grown more violent, some in Europehave begun to rethink that viewand know now that such racism mustbe confronted. Nor is it hyperbole tosay that these people have taken upwhere leaders such as King, MedgarEvers, and others left off.Those who are the founders andmembers of European antiracismgroups whom I interviewed speak oftheir mission with the same sense ofurgency as did black and white civilrights workers in the 1960’s. Like theirU.S. forebears, some are paying theultimate price for their dedication tothis cause. Yet few Americans know ofNikolai Girenko, for example, a Russianhuman rights scholar and activist whowas devoted to the goal of eliminatingracism in his motherland. Girenko wasshot dead, presumably by neo-Nazis,in his doorway in Saint Petersburg in2004.In the third part of this series, focuswill be put on the work of Girenko andothers in a segment called “Standing UpOne-by-One.” No Martin Luther King,Jr. type-figure has emerged amongEurope’s antiracism activists, but acrossthe continent thousands of individualsare actively organizing against bigotrydirected at immigrants, blacks, Muslims,Roma and others.The rest of the series divides thematicallyalong the following lines:Part One: The Organizations. Thisopening story looks at various antiracismgroups in Europe. In France, SOSRacism, for example, leads campaignstargeted at the elimination of antiblackand Muslim discrimination in theworkplace and schools. In Hungary,the European Roma Rights Center hasa similar goal in mind as it works onbehalf of Roma, a perpetually persecutedminority.Part Two: Marching Against Racism.At a recent rally in Berlin, demonstratorsrecalled words that former GermanChancellor Gerhard Schroeder spokeseven years ago when he called for an“uprising of decent people” againstneo-Nazis. In January 2001, the kingof Norway led his country’s largestpeacetime rally ever in response to akilling of a black teenager. Rallies andmarches continue to be an importantway of organizing public support.Part Four: Gypsies—The Blacks ofEastern Europe. I visited the EuropeanRoma Rights Center in Budapest tolearn more about how it uses U.S. civilrights-style strategies as it seeks redressagainst rampant racial discrimination.In this report, we explore how domesticNieman Reports / Fall 2006 13


Migration and Immigrationand European laws are being used tobring about change.Part Five: The Cultural Wars. Thisreport looks at how music, art andother cultural tools are being utilizedto encourage the integration of coloredpeoples into European society and tocounter the cultural messages of farright-wing anti-immigrant groups.Part Six: Creating a Movement. Thisreport examines how dozens of antiracismgroups scattered across Europeare uniting, given that many agreethat the gravest threat they face asEuropeans is not from skinheads andneo-Nazis but from the “denial” andacceptance of racism.As former race relations correspondentfor NPR, I had a great dealof experience covering these kindsof stories in the United States. TheGerman Marshall Fund of the UnitedStates has provided the resources tomake it possible for me to take my reportingabout these issues to anotherlevel, and in 2003 I began reportingon antiracism in Europe. Eight weeksof on-the-ground research took meto the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany,Austria, Denmark, Norway andSweden. This year I continued thework begun three years ago, assistedthis time by freelance reporters I hiredto interview antiracism proponents inRussia, Spain and Italy.When the series is broadcast in lateSeptember it will be pegged to a reportMonitoring ActivitiesWhat follows is a list of some of theindependent European groups thatmonitor racist and anti-immigrantgroups, parties and activities:• Norway: The Centre for CombatingEthnic Discrimination is engaged incampaigns against incidents of neo-Nazi street violence and official institutions,such as Norway’s SupremeCourt, which in 1999 declared itwas legal to advertise in real estatelistings for “whites only.”• Germany: Members of that nation’sJewish community, led by Paul Spiegelin Dusseldorf and the Societyon “Racism in Russia” that is scheduledto be delivered to the United NationsGeneral Assembly. This summer a UNhuman rights investigator visited SaintPetersburg to probe a growing waveof racist killings and beatings in thatnation. Russia continues to experiencestreet violence directed against minorityand immigrant populations and,in some instances, these actions areabetted by segments of governmentand security forces.“Standing Up to Racism” makes clearthat what is happening in Russia—andin other European nations—will nolonger be able to happen with impunitybecause of grass-roots oppositionfor Threatened Peoples, based inGöttingen, Germany, are organizingon behalf of Jews, “foreigners” andRoma.• Italy: The Union of Italian JewishCommunities is active in Rome andelsewhere in opposing neo-Nazihooliganism at soccer matches.• France: The National ConsultativeCommission of Human Rights is engagedin both monitoring and organizingagainst racist and anti-Semiticviolence, and the Movement AgainstRacism and For Friendship BetweenPeoples has been involved in counterdiscriminationcampaigns. ■from groups such as Youth againstRacism in Europe and the Anti-FascistCentre. Today many other groups andindividuals in Europe are echoing theirever-more shared belief that “We arenot alone.” Nor should their actionsremain invisible while the violence ofthose they confront remains a centerpieceof what we call news. ■Phillip W.D. Martin, a 1998 NiemanFellow, is executive producer of LiftedVeils Productions, a nonprofit radiojournalism organization dedicatedto exploring and investigating issuesthat divide society.Dutch Journalists Alter Their Coverage of MigrantsIn the wake of a politician’s murder and the rise of populist politicians, journalistsstart to report routinely on societal issues related to migrant groups.By Yvonne van der Heijden and Evert MathiesNeither in society, nor in themedia has the multiculturalsociety been a hot topic in theNetherlands until recent years. It wasn’tan issue that the Dutch took particularinterest in discussing since groups ofimmigrants from different cultures hadsettled successfully in this country forcenturies. In the 16th century, Jewishmerchants from Spain and Portugalsettled here. They were followed byPuritans from England, who as Pilgrimsin 1620 sailed to the New World, andthen by French Calvinist Huguenotsfleeing persecution in France.In a small country with wealthcreation dependent on internationaltrade, it always has been a matter14 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyof common sense for Protestants,Catholics and Jews to coexist. Ourcountry’s strong historic tradition ofreligious tolerance also made it easyto ignore the consequences of thehuge influx of people with differentcultural backgrounds after World WarII. The first wave in the 1950’s wereDutch with postcolonial roots fromthe Netherlands Indies, Suriname, theNetherlands Antilles, and Aruba. Theybrought an exotic tropical culture withthem, but they spoke Dutch, so communicationwas not a serious problem.That was different with the secondwave of immigrants—then called “foreignguest workers”—who came fromcountries around the Mediterranean inthe 1960’s and 1970’s.Guest Workers ArriveTens of thousands of “guest workers”invited to work in low-skilled industrialjobs arrived from Turkey and Moroccowith cultural values alien to the Dutch.They came mostly from the poorerparts of their countries, were devoutMuslim believers, and were close toilliterate. As is common practice here,these migrants set up associationsthat took care of organizing culturalevents, and these became consultativecounterparts of the government. At thattime, and still years later, nobody in theNetherlands realized what enormousimpact these immigrant workers wouldhave on this society that was based onJewish-Christian values. Until the riseof flamboyant politician Pim Fortuyn,who at the turn of the 21st centurydenounced Islam’s intolerance andgained an intense following in doingso, migrant issues seldom got frontpagecoverage.Until then, the nation’s lack of interestin issues associated with racism andcultural diversity had been groundedin the horrible experiences of WorldWar II. The large-scale murder of DutchJews had made a taboo of ethnic divisiveness,and this contributed to adelay in the emergence of a debateabout immigration and integration.In 2001, Fortuyn’s political messageand rising popularity broke the taboo.But as had happened in 1982 whenthe extreme right-wing Centre Party(CP) propagated xenophobic and racistideas and won a seat in Parliament,journalists (and politicians) again didnot know how to handle what washappening.A Wake-Up Call forJournalistsIn the early 1980’s, increasing supportfor extreme right-wing organizations,culminating in the CP’s entry into theHouse of Representatives, served as awake-up call on the topic of racism forthe Netherlands Association of Journalists(NVJ). Disinterest in migrants’lives had changed to negative imagingof ethnic minorities in the media;migrants were now being portrayedand treated as inferior people. Somenewspapers printed the full names offoreigners who were arrested contraryto the usual practice of using initialsin reports on those who are detainedby the police.To raise interest in the migrationissues and tackle unfair reporting onmigrants, the NVJ set up a workinggroup called “Media & Racism” in1984, which developed a proposal fora code of journalistic conduct in thecoverage of migrants. The draft code,however, faced strong oppositionamong NVJ members for whom journalisticfreedom is sacred. During anemotional meeting, they rejected thisnew code and decided to stick with thecode of Bordeaux, which was adoptedin 1954. 1 In their opinion, this priorcode provided enough ethical guidelinesapplicable to migrant issues. Theresult was that all news media wouldbe free to report on migrants in theirown way.At that time, political journalists hadto figure out how best to deal with theCP. Would they ignore the party’s onemember of Parliament? Would theyleave Parliament House during hisspeeches? Not report on his ideas? Orwould journalists be the ones to initiatethe debate about the acceptabilityof intolerance?An agreement was reached amongthose who covered Parliament thatonly one reporter—the one workingfor ANP, the national news agency—would be present at the speeches ofthe CP member. It was determinedthat he would write a report whenhe thought news was made. It tooka while to sort out these coverage issues,but in the end reporting wouldbe done on these issues, and that wasan important step. Ignoring this trendin society—and ignoring an electedmember of Parliament—would onlyworsen the problem.In 1987, the working group, renamed“Migrants & Media,” broadenedits scope. It now included topics suchas recruitment of migrant journalistsby Dutch media and schools of journalism.A year later it was agreed that fivepercent of students in each journalismclass had to be of foreign origin. Butthis directive has not worked to pushnumbers higher. Nearly 20 years later,in 2006, not more than four percentof journalists are nonethnic Dutch,though close to 10 percent of the Dutchpopulation is of foreign origin, and thisclimbs to a bit more than 30 percentin major cities such as Amsterdam,Rotterdam and The Hague.Instead, what happened is thatmigrant groups for the most part ignoredDutch media, much as they wereignored by it. Only a local paper inRotterdam, De Havenloods, publishedhalf-pages of news in Turkish duringthe 1970’s. And public radio offeredprograms in the migrants’ languagesfor a few hours every week.In May 2002 the Dutch were startled1This international declaration was proclaimed as a standard of professional conduct forjournalists engaged in gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news andinformation and in describing events. It was adopted by the Second World Congress of theInternational Federation of Journalists at Bordeaux in April 1954. www.uta.fi/ethicnet/ifj.htmlNieman Reports / Fall 2006 15


Migration and Immigrationwhen a white-collar, left-wing environmentalistmurdered Pim Fortuyn ninedays before lower house elections inwhich he was running. His was the firstpolitical murder in the Netherlandssince the 1584 assassination ofWilliam the Silent, known as “Fatherof the Fatherland.” Fortuyn’sopponents labelled him a far-rightpopulist because of his anti-Islamand anti-immigration stance, buthe’d insisted that he wasn’t racistand preferred his political viewsto be compared with center-rightpoliticians such as former ItalianPrime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.He is probably best considered anationalist on cultural rather thanracial grounds, and in the late 1990’she was the only one speaking outon the problems caused by thewidening gap between the ethnicDutch and the almost one millionMuslims in a total population of16 million. His fast rise to fameis interpreted here as a sign of howwidespread the view has become thatthe idea of building a multiculturalsociety has failed.Soul-Searching MediaThe assassination of Fortuyn set offa soul-searching period among journalists.What had they done wrong orfailed to do? What lessons were theyto learn? As they wrestled with thesequestions, they acknowledged thatthey’d been covering migrant issuesfrom an ivory tower. They’d missedimportant developments taking placein the dilapidated old neighborhoodsin major cities where a surging numberof foreigners from other cultureshad moved in, scaring the originalinhabitants. In many neighborhoods,more than half of the people were offoreign origin and were imposing theirlifestyle on the community. The fear ofthe unknown, coupled with languagedifferences that made communicationdifficult, made these neighborhoodsthe perfect breeding ground for whatwas now being seen as the success ofa populist agenda.Finally, the news media did what theearlier working group had proposed20 years earlier. The lives of migrantsand their communities received moreattention, not only when news eventshappened, such as the murder of outspokenand often offensive critic ofThe assassination of Fortuynset off a soul-searching periodamong journalists. What hadthey done wrong or failed todo? What lessons were theyto learn? As they wrestledwith these questions, theyacknowledged that they’d beencovering migrant issuesfrom an ivory tower.Islam, film director Theo van Gogh,by a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccanin November 2004, but on a moreregular basis. Journalists began tocover Islamic festivals and wrote storiesabout so-called “black” schools witha majority of migrant pupils, migrantentrepreneurs, and the disgracefulsituations of detained asylum seekers.Unfortunately, the working group wasdissolved in 2004 because of lack offinancial support.Migrant authors and politicians nowplay an active role in the debate on themulticultural society—and what theysay and do receives the attention ofjournalists. One of them, Somali-bornAyaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the DutchParliament, was at the center of politicalupheaval last June when immigrationminister, Rita Verdonk, nicknamed“Iron Rita” for her tough stance onimmigration, stripped Hirsi Ali of hercitizenship. When she’d applied forasylum in 1992, Hirsi Ali had used hergrandfather’s name, which accordingto Verdonk was a false name, to obtaina Dutch passport. This dispute causedthe collapse of the Dutch government.Hirsi Ali resigned her seat in Parliamentand announced she’ll move to theUnited States to work for the AmericanEnterprise Institute, a conservativethink tank in Washington, D.C.. She gother Dutch passport back in July.As with the reaction to the Danishcartoons of the Prophet Muhammadthat sparked uproar in the Islamicworld earlier this year, media coverageof Hirsi Ali’s case was hugeand responsibly handled as a widespectrum of opinion found its wayto the public. Indeed, newspaperand broadcasting organizations arekeeping a watchful eye on migrantissues today in ways that weren’tdone even a few years ago. Thoughno special code of conduct hasbeen instituted, news organizationsare adhering to their ownhigh standards when it comes totelling this complicated story. Andthe common ground journalistsnow inhabit is an awareness of thevital role they must play in theirnation’s fragile and ever-changingmulticultural society. ■Yvonne van der Heijden, a 1986Nieman Fellow, is working as afreelance journalist based in Loon opZand, the Netherlands. From 1979-1987 she reported from Parliamentin The Hague. From 1991-1999 shewas a correspondent in Beijing withthe Netherlands Press Associationand the Het Financieele Dagblad ofAmsterdam. She was a member of theboard of the Netherlands Associationof Journalists from 1987-1989. Herwork can be found online at www.vanderheijdencommunications.comEvert Mathies worked from 1976-1982 as a senior parliamentaryjournalist in The Hague, and from1983-1991 he was editor on religiousaffairs at a national newspaper. Heis an honorary member of the NetherlandsAssociation of Journalists(NVJ) and was a member of the NVJboard from 1977 to 1984 and cofounderof its working group, “Media& Racism,” which later was renamed“Migrants & Media.”16 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyChinese Migrants: Refreshing Reporting About aLongtime TrendConcerns arise about the Chinese government’s limits on news coverage of migrantprotests and worker abuse.By Mary Kay MagistadChina is in the midst of the biggestand fastest rural to urbanmigration in human history.During the next two decades, the Chinesegovernment expects more than300 million Chinese to move from villagesto cities. To make that possible, itplans to build the equivalent of a newShanghai—population approaching 20million—every year.Meanwhile, well over 100 millionChinese have already tossed aside theirplows to look for work and a better lifein the city—but not as bona fide urbanresidents, with all the government-issuedrights that go with that status.Instead, they reside in the sometimesdangerous, always difficult netherworldof migrant labor.For years, migrant workers havefilled the assembly-line jobs in China’sfactories and constructed its gleamingnew buildings—taking home as littleas $60 to $100 a month, when they’relucky enough to get paid at all. Theylive in cramped and dingy dwellings,sometimes little more than a shackunder a highway interchange. Theirchildren are often turned away fromattending urban schools, and themakeshift ones migrants create areregularly shut down by local authoritieswho claim that they do not meetofficial standards.Such treatment has long been centralto the government’s strategy tonot let migrant families get too comfortable,lest they decide to stay. Untilrecently, they’ve been treated in thestate-run media—and in their lives—asa necessary, if somewhat grubby, embarrassmentto the more sophisticatedurban citizenry.The Media and MigrantsWhen I was based in China a decadeago for NPR, I remember seeing onlya few stories on migrant workers inthe official Chinese media that didn’tfocus on some aspect of their generalnuisance value or illegality. That “illegality”relates to a largely outdated“hukou,” or residence permit, systemthat requires most people to stay wherethey were born if they want access tosuch government-subsidized servicesas education and health care. This acceptedpractice created an unofficialclass system with those who were bornin the country’s big cities receivingmore and better services and subsidies.That, by itself, used to provide ampleincentive for migrant workers to flockto cities in search of better lives andample reason for city-dwellers andthe state-run media to look on disapprovingly.But times are changing, and sois Chinese news media coverage ofmigrant worker issues. As China hastransformed from socialism to a free(r)market, government-supplied serviceshave diminished dramatically, andChinese, both rural and urban, havebegun to see mobility as their right.And a new attitude toward migrantworkers has begun to emerge in theChinese news media.In June, The Beijing Times publishedan article examining unsafe work conditionsfor construction workers, andthat same month the China Daily sharedwith readers news that migrant workershave contributed 16 percent of China’sgross domestic product (GDP) growthover the past 20 years, according to anew report by the Chinese Academyof Social Sciences. A Worker’s Dailycommentary called for an end to discriminationof migrant workers. Andthe state’s official broadcaster, CCTV(China Central Television), aired a longpiece about migrant workers who weretrying, to no avail, to collect their backpay. On the CCTV Web site, viewersresponded with such comments as: “Iwas crying when I was watching thatprogram. It is so sad,” and “I hate thosebastards who cheat migrant workers.They are worse than animals.”Why has there been this shift in attitude?In part, it can be traced to thefact that while China’s news media arestill state-controlled, most operate ona commercial basis and compete witheach other for readers, viewers andlisteners—and they do this by chasingafter compelling stories about suchhuman injustice. Because such storiesare now being done, a generation ofyoung Chinese journalists is developingan appetite for telling them.But such explanations would notsuffice if the Chinese government werenot leading by example. It has pledgedto eventually abolish the hukou systemand to protect the rights of migrantworkers—including their right to becompensated for the work they do.In a news conference two years ago,China’s then-minister of labor and socialsecurity, Zheng Silin, announcedsomewhat sheepishly that the governmenthad just paid out the equivalentof four billion dollars in back pay tomigrant workers who’d been stiffed bystate-owned enterprises. Some of thesepayments, he admitted, were for workdone 10 years earlier.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 17


Migration and ImmigrationFrustration over such worker exploitationand general ill-treatmentof migrants is one of the reasons whythe number of protests around Chinahas grown dramatically of late—to87,000 last year, according to Chinesepolice records. Many of the protestswere about the corruption of governmentofficials or their land grabs, butmigrant workers protested, too, aboutnot being paid or about the abusethey’ve endured from employers. Justthis summer, hundreds of protestersin the southern province of Guizhouoverturned police vehicles and threwbricks after people hired by policebeat up a migrant worker until bloodwas streaming down his face becausehe didn’t have a resident’s permit forthe city he was in and refused to payfor one.International ConnectionThis story about the beat-up migrantworker first appeared in the state-runGuizhou Metropolitan News. Fromthere, it got picked up by The AssociatedPress and other internationalnews media. And this is becoming afamiliar pattern: As the Chinese newsmedia—particularly local media—becomemore enterprising and daring,they are seen increasingly as an effectivealert for international news mediawho are interested in reporting on thesame issues.But not always. Enterprising anddaring though some of China’s newsmedia may be, they are still state-run.And during the past couple of years,the state has imposed a chill on thepress. The government has shut downpublications and jailed editors whowere too daring and issued regulationsthat forbid sensitive subjectsfrom being covered by state-run media.State and party media officials updateprohibitions on an almost daily basis,sometimes by sending text messagesto reporters’ mobile phones.In such an environment, foreigncorrespondents can and have helpedpush such stories into prominence,sometimes after getting quiet tips fromtheir Chinese counterparts. But now,the Chinese government is consideringnew legislation that could result in bothChinese and foreign journalists beingfined up to $12,500 each time theycover “unexpected news”—breakingstories—without first getting permissionfrom the relevant local authorities.In other words, the next time a foreigncorrespondent happens to be in a citywhen a riot starts because a migrantworker has been beaten to a pulp bypolice, the journalist is supposed toget permission from the police to dothe story. The Foreign CorrespondentsClub of China is lobbying for the proposedlegislation to be dropped.Meanwhile, migrant workers arefinding their own way for their voicesto be heard—not just through protestsbut also by the absence of workersthemselves. Factories in southernChina—where much of the world’sinexpensive clothes and toys aremade—are hundreds of thousandsof workers short. As China’s onechild-per-familygeneration movesinto adulthood, there just aren’t asmany people willing to move far fromhome to work long hours under oftendangerous conditions for dirt-cheapwages they might not ever receive.Some are staying on the farm, wherethe government’s cancellation of ruraltax is making farming more profitable.Others work at factories that are nowbeing built closer to them. Still othersare becoming better educated andfinding better paying jobs.Members of China’s news media areincreasingly following this evolutionwith sympathy and nuance—echoingthe government’s new “equal rightsfor migrant workers” line, but alsopointing out when migrant workers’harsh treatment by local officialsdoesn’t match that lofty rhetoric. Forinternational journalists, such reportingis business as usual. But for Chinesejournalists—who work for newsorganizations owned and overseenby a government not used to beingchallenged—the cumulative effect oftheir pushing-the-edge reporting onmigrants and other issues is creatinga little revolution all its own. ■Mary Kay Magistad, a 2000 NiemanFellow, is the Beijing-based NortheastAsia correspondent for the PublicRadio International/BBC/WGBHprogram “The World.”Attempting to Bridge the Divide‘Entering immigrant America on behalf of an English-language newspaper is, bydefinition, a cross-cultural experience.’By Héctor TobarWhen I was an adolescentgrowing up in 1970’s LosAngeles, I devoured the LosAngeles Times and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner:more than anything, fortheir sports pages and the statistics containedtherein. I clipped out box scoresfrom L.A. Rams games and pasted themin a scrapbook. Occasional big newsevents merited the same treatment: Forexample, when Richard Nixon resignedthe presidency, I collected all of theafternoon “extras.”The idea that I might one day writefor a newspaper never occurred to meor my Guatemalan immigrant parents.It wasn’t in the realm of my experience,or that of my friends and neighbors inpredominantly working-class and immigrantEast Hollywood, that peoplebecame writers. Newspapers reported18 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyevents that took place in Washington,D.C., in sports arenas, and on themoon. It wasn’t until years later, whenI started working at my hometownnewspaper, that I grasped the idea thatnewspapers were supposed to mirrorthe daily life of the communities wherethey circulated.In a certain sense, that segregationbetween news writers and newsconsumers lives on in the growingnumber of American communitieswhere immigrants and other SpanishorSpanglish-speaking people makeup a sizeable chunk of the populace.American newspapers have, generallyspeaking, failed miserably to penetratethese places. When I started at theLos Angeles Times in the late 1980’s,I learned that certain editors referredto the immigrant and “minority” heartof the city as “the hole in the donut.”The Times was then pushing hardto increase circulation in the city’ssuburbs with twice-weekly supplementsthat covered local news in everycorner of Los Angeles and OrangeCounty—with the glaring exceptionof the neighborhoods directly adjacentto downtown.Those communities didn’t havelarge numbers of residents in theTimes’ preferred “demographic;” theywere a readerless void as far as ourmarketing gurus were concerned.Over the years the Times’ “hole in thedonut” has appeared to grow larger.The other day a colleague of mine satin on a front-page meeting at whichone editor argued against putting astory about a proposed Los Angelescity ordinance “out front” because “Wedon’t have that many readers in thecity of Los Angeles anyway.”The Times’ coverage of immigrantcommunities is like that of most otherpapers: It focuses on cultural conflict,on the “otherness” of the people wholive there. The daily life and routine ofthese places, the specific aspirationsof their residents, are often lost in thediscourse that asks whether “thesepeople” have a right to live among usAmericans—when, in fact, the vast majorityare legal residents of the UnitedStates. Yet there are important, historydefiningstories about the Latino UnitedStates that can be found reported, butonly sporadically, in American newspapers:for example, the explosionof Latino community institutions innearly every corner of the country; theevolution of a rich, bicultural identityin which Latin American symbols areincorporated into American traditions;the gradual Latinization of workingclassAmerican culture.Experiencing a DisconnectIn general, the diversity of the Latinoand immigrant experience escapesAmerican journalism due to the lack ofdiversity in the country’s newsrooms.When I started atthe Los AngelesTimes in the late1980’s, I learnedthat certain editorsreferred to theimmigrant and‘minority’ heart ofthe city as ‘the holein the donut.’As late as 1998 an observer of the LosAngeles Times city desk would havenoticed a somewhat disturbing fact:there was the only Latino reporterworking dailies for the city desk, aguy called Héctor Tobar. Latinos thenconstituted almost 47 percent of thecity’s population (that is the figure theCensus Bureau would arrive at twoyears later), and it seemed to me unconscionablethat I would be the “solerepresentative of my people” at the citydesk of its largest newspaper.I used that phrase, spoken withequal measures of hurt and sarcasm,when I told my city editor that I was goingto quit. I wouldn’t stand for being a“token” one day longer. Ruben Salazar,the pioneer and martyr of Latino journalismin Los Angeles, who was killedby L.A. County sheriff ’s deputies in1970, wouldn’t stand for such a situationif he were still alive, I said. The cityeditor then was the veteran and muchrespected Bill Boyarsky. He talked meout of it: “I knew Ruben Salazar, andhe wouldn’t want you to quit.” Thingswere going to improve quickly, he toldme; Latino reinforcements were onthe way. New blood did indeed arrivesome months later for the short-lived“Latino project” overseen by the lateFrank del Olmo.Entering immigrant America on behalfof an English-language newspaperis, by definition, a cross-cultural experience.Smart editors know it helps tohave people in their newsrooms whocan jump back and forth betweenworlds: interview people in one languageto report to people who speakanother. Being good at it requires notjust sharp linguistic skills, but also theability to navigate the cultures.Americans, generally speaking, preferthe direct and succinct approach:cutting to the chase and asking pointedquestions is not necessarily frownedupon. Latin Americans, generallyspeaking, prefer indirectness and deference:It will take you a while to getaround to questions such as “Did youabscond with the funds, Mr. Mayor?”First you must establish the respect youhave for the mayor and his position,even if there is an angry mob outsidedemanding his head. You address theinterviewee with the appropriate titleif he or she has one: licenciado, doctor,ingeniero. The guy picking throughthe garbage in the alley gets a titletoo: the all-purpose “jefe.” You startoff most conversations with the formalthird-person “usted” but switch to theinformal “tú” at the appropriate moment.If you walk into an interviewee’shome and he or she offers you a cupof coffee or invites you to sit down fora meal, you never say no.When you finish your interviewand return to the newsroom, youstep back across the cultural divideinto corporate America. Your storiescirculate in English, and you can’tsay with any certainty that the peopleyou’ve interviewed and written aboutwill know their tales are in the newspaper.Some years back, I traveled toNieman Reports / Fall 2006 19


Migration and Immigrationa neighborhood south of downtownLos Angeles to report on a gang warthat had claimed more than a dozenlives. The police were having troublesolving these killings because no witnesseswould step forward, despitethe fact that several of the shootingshad taken place before large crowdsof onlookers. I interviewed the fatherof one victim, whose teenage son hadbeen killed about half a block from hisfront door. This man spoke English, butwas more comfortable in Spanish. Hemade a startling admission to me: Hehad sought out his son’s killers and hadtracked them down to a nearby Mexicanneighborhood, though he was at a lossabout what he should do next.I put all this in the story, protectinghis anonymity, describing him as anunnamed “relative.” The story was onthe front of the Times’ Metro section,and the name of the teenage victimwas featured in the lead of the story. Icalled the father a week later to see ifhe had heard of any arrests in the caseand discovered he wasn’t aware thestory had been published. The newspapercirculated in his neighborhood—Icould see it in newspaper racks nearthe bus stops—but neither he nor anyof his neighbors or relatives knew ofthe story’s existence. So large was thecultural gap between my newspaperand this neighborhood in the heartof working-class Los Angeles, a placeakin to a Brooklyn or Queens, thatour seemingly all-powerful newspapercarried no weight there.This is the dilemma of the reporterwho ventures into places where Spanishand Spanglish are spoken. Yourreaders and your subjects may thinkthey inhabit parallel universes, but youknow they live in the same country,separated by stretches of freeway and azip code or two. You write in the hopethat one day they will both read yourwords and that both will see their cityand nation reflected in them. ■Héctor Tobar is the Mexico Citybureau chief of the Los Angeles Timesand, most recently, the author of“Translation Nation: Defining a NewAmerican Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States.”Watching a Community Changed by ImmigrationWith African Americans being displaced by Latinos, news coverage of South CentralLos Angeles is inflaming tensions, not informing people.By Lester SloanThe 11th annual Central AvenueJazz Festival in South Los Angelesgot off to a smooth start asresidents and nonresidents alike founda spot of shade, a patch of green orcommon shelter under the tent, directlyacross the street from the historicDunbar Hotel. Central Avenue was theheart and soul of African-American musicand entertainment from the 1920’suntil the late ’50’s, attracting white Hollywoodto the Club Alabam and otherafter-hour joints that saw as much ofMae West as any of her leading men.On this hot July afternoon, the crowdreflected the city’s much touted ethnicdiversity. And there was enough friedchicken and fish, tacos and jambalayato feed the multitudes.The festival is an attempt to recapturesome of this community’s pastglory and put a lasting signature onits neighborhoods that have experi-These women, who came from Central America, are attending a festival in South CentralLos Angeles that attracts people from this black and brown community. Photo and captionby Lester Sloan.20 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyenced a demographic flip in a relativelyshort time—transitioning from being80 percent African-American (and 20percent Hispanic) to now having aLatino majority that is strengthening.During the festival’s two days, the musicreflects both an African-American andLatin culture. But for the remaining363 days of the year, the communityhas a decisive Latino flavor.Most of the businesses along CentralAvenue, from barbershops to grocerystores and restaurants, reflect this demographicshift. The paper of recordhere is no longer the weekly Sentinel,a long-standing and influential African-American newspaper, nor the muchnewer daily Wave, but the SpanishlanguageLa Opinión, along with Hoy,a free paper that the Tribune Companybegan publishing here recently in competitionfor Latino readers.South Central, as the area is generallycalled, includes the communities ofWatts and Compton, formerly African-American, now predominantly Latino.Sometimes this place is referred to asthe “Ellis Island of the West” since manyof its neighborhoods are end stationsfor immigrants not only from Mexicobut also from all of Central America. Tothose arriving, this is the promised landof the North, and the travelers fill spacesleft here by the post-1965 departure ofAfrican Americans (after the Watts riotsor insurrection, depending on one’sframe of reference), when familiesmoved to communities like BaldwinHills and Inglewood (or as some call it,“Inglewatts”) and then later to placeslike Palmdale and the valley.Of course, some African Americansstill live and work in South Central.But with diminished numbers, manyfeel as though they are being pushedor shoved out of their community—orat least out of the life of what was oncetheir community—by the influx of bothlegal and illegal immigrants. Even whenAfrican Americans were the majoritypopulation here, in Los Angeles theirpresence was never higher than 15 percent.So what mattered to them—andgave them both a sense of communityand political engagement—was havingthis place that belonged to them.Now these two minority groups eachMembers of the L.A. Dodgers Little League team celebrate a victory at Wrigley Fieldin South Los Angeles. The team’s coach is teaching these kids to play together so in thefuture they can live together. Photo and caption by Lester Sloan.try to hold on to what they regard astheirs. The newcomers bring with themtheir businesses and cultural life, whilethose who have stayed behind long fora time when their shops and music andart were everywhere in evidence. Somemight call what is happening a “turfwar,” but in reality it goes deeper thanthat. “South Central is one big meltingpot,” says Bobby Rodarte, a 30-year oldLatino restaurant owner on CentralAvenue. “You have everybody fromeverywhere. Blacks say we’re invadingthem; we’re not invading them. We’rejust picking up where they are leavingoff. If we don’t do it, the Koreans aregoing to come in.”Perceptions HinderReportingFrom 1947 until the Rodney King riotsin 1992, South Central has been studied,observed, sampled and poked at. In1965 the McCone Commission’s reportoffered recommendations regardingthe news media—and the role they playtoo often in sharpening divisions andescalating tensions. But few (or none)of the recommendations appear to beheeded by many journalists today. TheMcCone Commission’s advice includedthe following:• Avoid emphasizing stories on publictension while the tensions of a particularincident are developing.• Ask law enforcement agenciesinvolved whether the developingincident is designated as a disturbanceof the peace or otherwise.Report the official designation ofthe incident.• Public reports should not state exactlocations, intersections or streetnames or number until authoritieshave sufficient personnel on handto maintain control.• Immediate or direct reportingshould minimize interpretation.• Eliminate airing of rumors and avoidusing unverified statements.Yet today, as tensions simmer amongthese minority populations, news coverage,when it happens at all, fails onmany counts, including often the onesnoted above.Today in South Central, competitionfor jobs has generated as much ethnicstrife as the competition for space. Untilthe 1970’s many of the jobs in thedowntown hotels and restaurants wereheld by African Americans; today thosejobs are held mostly by Latinos. Yetinstead of reporting on activities andefforts to tap down tensions that existNieman Reports / Fall 2006 21


Migration and Immigrationabout this change—such as efforts bythe Los Angeles branch of the SouthernChristian Leadership Conference towork closely with UNITE HERE Local11, the Latino restaurant and hotelworkers union, to bring more blacksinto that organization—much that iswritten and broadcast about this issueand this community inflames ratherthan informs.Los Angeles Council Member JanPerry, whose 9th district includes partsof South Central, sees this as a problemof perceptions being shaped by the media:“The promotion of racial conflictby the media is just a manifestation ofthe inability to really dig into a relationship.There’s no respect; there’sno regard for history. And some of it isthe business, too. It’s a very fast-pacedbusiness,” she says, as she observesthe quick speed at which informationtravels on new media technologies andworries, too, about what this meansfor the ways in which journalists dotheir jobs.In South Central preconceptionsabout the community or its inhabitantsoften influence the ways in which journalistsapproach their reporting. Perry,who is bilingual and black, watchedrecently as friends and acquaintancespaid their condolences to membersof the family of a young Latino manand his nephew who were killed ina drive-by shooting. Reporters therewere asking people if they thoughtthe shooting was racially motivated;but with as many blacks in attendanceto support the family as there wereLatinos, this was a question Perry feltwas insensitive and, when it was asked,she heard from those around her a collective“sigh of disbelief.” Noting thatracial intermarriage is quite commonin this community, Perry says, “Don’tassume that you know whose relativesbelong to whom based on the waythey look.”That night I saw the story broadcaston a local news show; like Perry, itstruck me that the question seemedout of place when the visual showedas many black as brown faces in thecrowd. However, the reporter likelyasked this question because therehad been recent stories about Latinogang members in prison ordering hitson blacks living in the predominatelyLatino community of Highland Park,less than 25 miles north of South LosAngeles.As a black journalist, I confess to beingas guilty of making assumptions assome of my white colleagues. Recently,when I was working in South Los Angeles,a young Latino approached meto ask if I would take a picture of himand the young woman who accompaniedhim. Because of the location andthe way he looked, I wrote him off asa young tough trying to impress hisgirl, but I took the picture, thinkingI’d then be rid of him.“If I pay you, will you send it to me?”he asked unexpectedly.“If you live around here, I’ll bring itto you tomorrow,” I said, ashamed thatI’d profiled him based on superficialvisual cues. The next day, I stopped offat a house less than a half block fromwhere I’d met the couple and knockedon the opened screened door.“Hey man, you’re just in time tojoin us for lunch,” came the voicefrom inside.Among the valuable lessons we canlearn is how our pictures and wordscan tell lies unless they are informedby something more than a notion.Tensions Grab the HeadlinesFor many reasons, it is a tragic ironythat blacks and browns are having thisconflict given that Los Angeles wasfounded in 1781 by blacks of Africandescent, Mexicans and Mestizo (peopleof mixed race). The last governor ofCalifornia under Mexican rule, PioPico, was a Latino whose grandmotherwas black. But since Europeans startedarriving here in the early 1800’s, fewof these black/brown historic rootshave remained a prominent part ofour history.Tim Watkins, CEO and presidentof the Watts Labor Community ActionCommittee, a 41-year-old organizationthat was established just before theWatts riots, thinks a lot about whatit will take for blacks and browns towork out some of their differences.“We really need to have a conversationamong ourselves without any outsideor external influences so that we canget everything on the table and sortthe shaft from the seed. We need tounderstand that we share far more incommon than we do apart. It doesn’tneed to be around the precepts ofamenity and good will; it needs to beabout contention: You want my job, butyou aren’t willing to work hard for it.I want your job, but I aren’t [sic] willingto work for less than a respectablewage.” But Watkins knows that conflictand tension are the lifeblood of thenews media, and it will likely be themoments of tension—not the quietermoments of conversation—that willcontinue to draw them to this placeand story.Murray Fromson, former CBS correspondentand professor emeritusat University of Southern California’sSchool of Journalism, concurs: “In thecase of covering controversial storiesor provocative stories, like race inAmerica, which I don’t think we havereally confronted in a serious way,people cover it when something likea riot or an uprising [happens]. In thematter of race, whether it was in Wattsor Detroit, wherever there have beenthese explosions, people never say,‘what was the cause of that anger?’”And there is plenty of anger—feltby both African Americans and Latinos—surroundingthe impact of immigrationin South Central. First andsecond generation Mexicans demonstratedtheir anger by voting in favorof former California Governor PeteWilson’s so-called anti-immigrationballot propositions. These were supportedby 30 percent of the Mexicanimmigrant community. Yet at a timewhen the divide between rich and poorgrows ever wider, it might be wise forworking-class blacks and browns tolook in the mirror and see who is staringback at them. Maybe restaurant ownerBobby Rodarte sees in the future whatothers fail to recognize: “Downtown,that’s all going to be white land. Inthe next 10 years they will have theircondos, office buildings, and lofts. Thenext thing will be the barricades (orgates) to keep the Latinos, blacks andany other minority group out.”22 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyJournalists owe the community ofSouth Central more than infrequentscrutiny during periods of chaos. Toshow up only when the house is burningisn’t what good journalism—withits watchful public eye—should beabout. Councilwoman Perry is workingto set up a free Internet corridoralong Central Avenue in the hope thatpeople in this community will start totell their stories through blogs andpodcasts. Creating “citizen” reportersmight spur the news media to take a differentapproach in their own coverageof what goes on here, and that wouldbe a good place to start. ■Lester Sloan, a 1976 Nieman Fellow,was a staff photographer forNewsweek for 25 years. Prior to thathe worked as cameraman/reporterfor the CBS affiliate in Detroit. For aperiod, he was a contributing editorto Emerge magazine and an essayistwith NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” He isa freelance photographer and writerbased in Los Angeles.A N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGR A PHSDocumenting Migration’s Revolving DoorBy Donna DeCesareIbegan my journey into the worldof Latino youth gangs 12 years agoon the streets of Los Angeles aftercovering conflicts in Central Americaduring the 1980’s. Back then, therewere no gangs in Central America, butthe immigrants and refugees floodinginto Los Angeles, fleeing civil warand human rights abusesin their native countries,landed in poor neighborhoodswhere gangs werea dominant feature ofyouths’ daily lives.In those years Californiawas consistently spendingmore on prison constructionthan on education.Deportation of immigrantyouth offenders becamea popular solution to what was thenperceived as a growing “immigrant”gang problem. But the dual policiesof incarceration and deportation havenot rid the United States of its homegrownyouth gangs. Instead prison hasbecome a rite of passage in poor communitieshere, while the gang cultureof Los Angeles has spread throughoutCentral America.When young immigrant offendersor gang members who grew up inthe United States are deported, theyare denied the minimal anchors offamily and “home.” Some are jailedupon arrival in the countries they leftas children. Most are set adrift in theshantytowns of the Americas. Rejectedand feared wherever they go, they seekothers like themselves for comfort,protection and survival.It is these young men whom I haveI’ve noticed that mine is a lonely trail, too,for as I sit and talk with these gang membersabout their lives, and I observe them witheach other and photograph them, rarely do Icome across other journalists doing the same.followed on their journeys from onecountry to another, where the commonground they find is social alienationand the comfort and security the gangsprovide them. I’ve noticed that mine isa lonely trail, too, for as I sit and talkwith these gang members about theirlives, and I observe them with oneanother and photograph them, rarelydo I come across other journalists doingthe same. Thus, their story is onerarely told and rarely, it would seem,noticed, at least in these less visibleaspects of their life stories that I believecan be of value for us, as Americans,to understand.There is nothing romantic aboutgangs or gang violence. Postwar Guatemalaand El Salvador vie with oneanother for the highest per capitahomicide rate in the American hemisphere.Annual per capita homiciderates surpass the averageannual casualty rates duringthe wars of the 1980’s,yet in less than 20 percentof the homicide cases isanyone found guilty of themurder. Investigative workby the Guatemalan police israre. Police officials at crimescenes commonly attributehomicides to gang vendettasof two street gangs—MaraSalvatrucha and 18th Street thatoriginated in Los Angeles—thoughhuman rights activists with ties to theaffected communities tell differentstories. They speak of corrupt police,organized crime, and local vigilantesbearing some responsibility for the killings;nongovernmental organizationsconcerned with human rights accusepolice of abuses including extra-judicialkillings. Instead of solving thesecrimes, the emphasis given to risinghomicides and the “gang threat” byofficials in Central America has beenNieman Reports / Fall 2006 23


Migration and Immigrationto pass legislation criminalizing tattoosand granting police broad powers todetain and imprison young people theysuspect of gang involvement.Local news reporters, who workunder deadline pressures and withoutencouragement from their news desks,seldom do any follow-up reportingon these deaths, especially when thevictims are young and poor, and thuslittle pressure is exerted on police tokeep investigations open.Gang youth are easy scapegoats,a convenient smokescreen for organizedcrime. They have become theprincipal target of militarized policing—disproportionateto their actualmisdeeds. There are moral concerns tobe raised about this, but there are alsoquestions that focus on the use (andpossible abuse) of public funds, andthose are the issues more journalistsought to be considering. While thereare a handful of organizations engagingin violence-prevention work withyouth gang members or working tohelp U.S. criminal deportees rebuildproductive lives, the overall picture islargely one of abandonment, repressionand escalating violence.In 2005 in the United States, the Departmentof Homeland Security begana highly visible national crackdown on“immigrant gangs,” in particular theMara Salvatrucha. These approachesare popular, in part, because they playinto the public’s sense of insecurityand fears of terrorism. However, theserepressive approaches do not addressimportant issues such as the socialmarginalization of these youngstersand the environments of impunity inwhich gang violence, vigilantism andorganized crime vendettas thrive. Itcould be argued that these policiesinstead contribute to the spread ofgang violence and to the revolvingdoor by which gang members move (orare moved) from the United States toCentral America and then back againas they attempt to survive.But for the public to engage in thesekinds of discussions, journalists willneed to learn how to tell the storiesthat few of them yet seem to see. ■Donna DeCesare is an assistant professorat the University of Texas atAustin School of Journalism. She wasa 2003 Ochberg Fellow of the DartCenter for Journalism & Trauma. Acollection of her photo novelas aboutyouth affected by war, trauma andgangs can be seen at www.pixelpress.org/contents/donna_edgar/index.htmlPhoto and caption © Donna DeCesare.Protesters raised a skeleton outside the federal building in Los Angeles to symbolizetheir fears of what would happen if Proposition 187 passed. The ballotinitiative, denying social services, health care and public education to undocumentedimmigrants and their children, received 59 percent of the vote in 1994,but the vote was later overturned when a federal court ruled it unconstitutional.24 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyDeported youths with affiliations toLos Angeles gangs end up in CentralAmerica far from their families. Edgarused to live in Los Angeles with hismother and brothers. When his brotherJose was murdered by a rival gang inLos Angeles, his mother sent Edgar toEl Salvador to “protect” him from LosAngeles gangs. But the murder affectedEdgar. He responded by joining hisbrother’s Mara Salvatrucha gang inSan Salvador, tattooing his mother’sname, Ana, and a tombstone with hisbrother’s gang name, “Shy Boy, ” onhis back, and using his dead brother’sgang name as his own. Two years afterthis photograph was taken Edgar wasmurdered by death squad vigilantes inthe barrio where he lived. San Salvador,El Salvador. 1997.In Talisman, Guatemala,Mara Salvatrucha gang memberswait to cross into Mexicoas they attempt to returnto the United States. Localchildren listen to stories ofgang wars and are influencedby a culture that mixes gangtattoos with the image ofSanta Muerte [Saint Death],the saint of criminals and thedispossessed in Mexican culture—anda reminder of theirindigenous roots.Photos and captions © Donna DeCesare.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 25


Migration and ImmigrationFederal agents fromthe Violent Gang TaskForce arrest youthssuspected of beingundocumented gangmembers. Theseyouths are likely to bedeported. Los Angeles,California. 1994.Gang members meteout their own formof punishment to oneanother. San Salvador,El Salvador. 1997.Photos and captions © Donna DeCesare.26 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyFriends attend a funeral for aslain Mara Salvatrucha gangmember in Guatemala City,Guatemala. Photo and caption by©Donna DeCesare, 2001. ■Ethical Dilemmas in Telling Enrique’s StoryA reporter talks about the limits of intervening in risky situations and whether to fullyidentify vulnerable sources.Sonia Nazario, a Los Angeles Timesreporter who won the 2003 PulitzerPrize in Feature Writing and the PolkAward for International Reporting forthe six-part series entitled “Enrique’sJourney” discussed various ethical dimensionsand challenges in reportingand writing these articles at an eventsponsored in 2003 by the Greater LosAngeles Chapter of the Society of ProfessionalJournalists. In reflecting on thetwo years she spent researching andwriting this series, Nazario discussedhow she dealt with Enrique and otherboys who traveled from Central Americaand crossed the Mexican border insearch of their mothers in the UnitedStates. What follows are excerpts fromNazario’s remarks.The story was about the 48,000or so children who come tothe United States from CentralAmerica and Mexico by themselves,unaccompanied by a parent. Usually,they are following a parent, often asingle mother who came here previously.These women, mostly fromCentral America, came to the UnitedStates thinking that the separationwould last one or two years and thatthey would reunify with their kidsand that by coming here they wouldbe able to send money home, theirchildren would be able to study, eatbetter, and that all around it would bea better situation.My article became the story of oneboy—Enrique—whose mother leftCentral America for the United Stateswhen he was five years old. He wenton a journey to try to reunify with herand finally reunited with her in NorthCarolina when he was 17 years old.He, like thousands of these children,traveled on top of freight trains inMexico. It is a very dangerous journey.I spent some time with Enriquein Mexico while he was making hisjourney north. I also reconstructedparts of his journey. I followed in hisfootsteps and reconstructed his storythrough interviews and observations.I also traveled on top of freight trainswith other immigrant children.My attempt was to try to give anunflinching look at what this journeyis like for these children and whatthese separations are like through onethread, through one child. I wanted totake the audience into this world, whichI assume most readers would never seeotherwise. I tried to bring it to them asPreparing for the JourneyIn her talk, Nazario offered specificguidance to journalists aboutthe steps to take before they beginreporting with at-risk sources on astory of this kind:• Know the story• Do intense, thorough research• Know the personal risks• Know the legal risks• Construct your safety nets• Know the consequences ofintervening• Know the route of your journey• Know yourself: know yourlimits. ■Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 27


Migration and Immigrationvividly as possible so they could smellwhat it’s like to be on top of the train.They could feel it. They could see it.They literally would feel like they werealongside him. That was my goal, tofollow in his every footstep.The one thing about doing thiskind of fly-on-the-wall reporting isthat you’re on the frontlines. Thatmeans you are going to encounter alot more ethical dilemmas than youwould while sitting at your desk or onthe phone. You’re with people, and inparticular children, who are at-risk andso you have to deal with these issuesdirectly.One thing I would recommend indoing these kinds of stories is to reallyfront-load the process by asking yourself:What are the worst-case scenariosthat could happen along the journey,and how would you react to them?What’s the worst thing that could happento these kids that might cause youto intervene? You have to think thesethings out ahead of time, becausethings can happen so quickly that it’stoo late to react in an appropriate wayif you’re not prepared.During the process, I constantlyasked myself, “Could something that’shappening cause irreparable harm to achild?” In trying to go through all theseworst-case scenarios, I researched themby spending time in INS [Immigrationand Naturalization Service] jails andin shelters along the border. I interviewedchildren who had done thewhole journey and so I had a basic ideaof where I would be going, what themost important scenes would be in thestory, and what I would be looking foralong the way. I also learned about themain dangers I would face and wherethose dangers would be. With that inmind, I came up with my worst-casescenarios and the steps I might take todeal with them.Sometimes ethical dilemmas areintertwined with legal dilemmas. Oneof the main things that came up beforeeven leaving on the journey was that Ihad planned to cross the Rio Grandewith whichever child I found on theMexican side of the border and continueon with them to their destinationin the United States. I didn’t end up!doing that, but that was my intention.I thought, “Okay, this child will probablynot have an inner tube, this childwill probably not have a snakebitekit, this child will probably not havean emergency blanket to keep warmso they don’t freeze out in the desertin Texas.”Crossing the Rio Grande is a verydangerous challenge. Hundreds ofpeople drown there, sucked under bywhirlpools. And even after successfullymaking it across the river, many peopledon’t make the next leg of the journey,which requires walking through thedesert for basically four days.I knew that I wouldn’t do that unlessI carried certain equipment withme—I just wasn’t willing to take thatrisk. I was going to have a cell phone,an emergency blanket, a snakebite kit,and I was going to have an inner tube,even though I’m a former lifeguard.So the questions came up, in termsof not only the ethical issues of extendingsome of those things for Enrique’suse, but also in terms of the legality ofentering the country. If I did not enterat a sanctioned point, then that wouldbe a misdemeanor. And if I was with achild and I would be viewed as helpinghim across, then that would be aidingand abetting, which is a felony.I did a lot of research to try to figureout what were the legal lines, aside fromthe moral and ethical lines. It can getkind of tricky. What I determined wasOn the Narrative ApproachI think it’s a couple of things in termsof the craft and being able to tell astory well. I’m a big believer in fly-onthe-wallstories and trying to be thereand watching things play out. I thinkthe result is much more immediate andpowerful. I don’t think we do enoughof it in newspapers. I was motivatedto do this story because I was kind ofpeeved that a lot of immigration storieswere told from the point of viewof men. The face of immigration ischanging. It’s much more now aboutthat if the kid’s in trouble in the waterI was obviously going to help him, butshort of that I was not going to helphim. He would not use my inner tubebecause that would be altering reality,and I didn’t want to do that, if atall possible. Overall, what was reallyimportant to me was to not intervenein any way. I think it’s really importantto try to convey reality as accurately asyou can. I’m already changing thingsjust by my presence.The other thing about intervening isthat you really don’t want to be viewedas anything other than what you are.You don’t want to be viewed as anarm of law enforcement in Mexico, forexample, because a lot of people willstop talking to you. And when they viewyou as a journalist, they’re still suspicious,but you have a fighting chancethere. But if you start to intervene, itcan raise the suspicion level.For me, the dividing line waswhether or not I felt the child was inimminent danger. Not discomfort, not“things are going really badly,” not “Ihaven’t eaten for 24 hours.” I knew thatonce I intervened in a significant way,I could not use that kid in the story. Iwould have to start over totally. Luckily,I worked for an employer who abidedby those principles and had already puta lot of money and a lot of time intodoing the story. But that was clearly inmy mind, the dividing line: If a kid isin imminent danger, you act.these women and children.I thought it was important to tell thatbroader story and what that journeyis like for those kids and to bring thathome. Immigration is a huge issue inCalifornia and in the whole country. Ithought it was a way to try to get peopleto think about immigration again.In general, I take risks, but verycalculated risks. I build in as manysafety nets as possible along the wayby getting permissions and researching.■ —S.N.28 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyAs a reporter, you have to acceptthat you’re going to see a lot of miseryand, with children in particular,that’s really hard. You’re going to seethem go through really, really difficultthings, especially with this kind of flyon-the-wallreporting. But I think thatbrings an immediacy and a power tothe story of being there, witnessing it,showing it in a present tense that youdon’t otherwise get. You might see akid struggle for a couple of weeks tocome up with the money to call Hondurasto obtain a telephone numberhe needs to finally talk to his mother.Sometimes you have to watch thatplay out to be able to write a reallypowerful story. Those aren’t oftenthings the public understands verywell. I got some e-mails that basicallysaid, “Aren’t you a human being? Howcould you do this?”The bottom line on all this is that Itry not to do anything I can’t live with.I try not to do anything that keeps meup at night. And I try to think aboutsome of these decisions before I startmy reporting and continue during myinvestigation.Naming Sources vs. GrantingAnonymityOn Ways of the RoadI carried very little money on me,and I never brought the cell phoneout in the presence of anyone. Evenwhen I was on top of the train I wouldrefrain from calling my husband untilI could go to a part of the train thatwas empty. I would never eat in frontof kids. I would never drink waterin front of kids. When we were on atrain for a 16-hour stretch I did noteat, I did not drink water. In fact, Idid not go to the bathroom becausegirls can’t do that on the top of thetrain. By my influence with MexicanTo me, using a last name is an essentialcomponent of credibility in a story. Ihad never written a story where themain character was not fully identified.Originally, Enrique’s full name was inthe story. However, through the [editing]process, it was obvious that thatwouldn’t be possible in the end.When I deal with kids, I always getwritten permission from a parent. Icarry forms with me in English andSpanish saying that it’s okay to interviewmy child, it’s okay to photographthem, and it’s okay to use this all in anewspaper story. The first time I metEnrique’s mother, Lourdes, she signedthat paper. She was fine with it. She gaveone stipulation when she signed—thatwe would not divulge the specific townwhere she lived in North Carolina. She,like many immigrants in North Carolina,had heard that a Raleigh paperhad done a profile of an immigrant,identified him fully, identified his workplaceand, not long after that, the INSshowed up and arrested him and all hiscolleagues at the grocery store wherethey worked. So she—and every immigrantin North Carolina—was aware ofthis case. She asked if I wouldn’t nameher hometown. So I actually wrote thatinto the form, that I would not do so.But that was the only stipulation sheor Enrique gave.I was very concerned about theirsafety and protecting their anonymity.First, I tried to do something kind ofhalf way. I thought about using only onelast name—often Latinos have two lastnames. With Enrique and his mother, Iwas going to use the last name that washarder to track, because they hadn’tused it in the United States. But that wassummarily rejected by the top editoras not being direct and honest.We had a computer researcher doan extensive search to see how easy itwould be to find Enrique or his mother.At one point they had applied forsomething that made it even easier totrack them. Based on that, I requestedto the two editors I was working withthat we withhold both last names ofanyone who might be in danger ofbeing traced by the authorities. Theeditors agreed with that. We includedan explanation when the piece ran inthe Times. It said, “The Times’ decisionin this instance is intended to allowEnrique and his family to live theirlives as they would have had they notauthorities, it showed that I might beable to help people along the way. Ijust tried to minimize that perceptionof my ability to intervene. If you’reconsistent and immigrants see you’renot giving anything to anyone andyou explain to them what the rationaleis about not giving money, if youtake the time to do that, I think thatreally helps. At a certain point, oneperson would come up and startasking for money and another wouldsay, “Don’t even bother.” The wordkind of got around.!■ —S.N.provided information for this story.”In essence, the name was withheld sothey would not be penalized for workingwith us throughout two years to tryto illuminate this issue.One thing that made me feel betterabout that decision was that there wereall sorts of relatives in the footnotes andstory who were fully identified. And inretracing Enrique’s footsteps, I triedto find anyone and everyone who hecould remember had interacted withhim along the way. There were peoplewho had helped him after he’d beenbeaten on top of the trains and the like.Those people were identified fully. Hisfamily could vouch for his story in Honduras,and I included as many peopleas I could find who could vouch forhis journey. I felt this really bolsteredthe credibility of the story.I was still a little worried about notusing his full name. It was uncomfortablebut necessary. The readershipreaction confirmed that we made theright decision. I didn’t get any responsefrom the readers asking why we hadn’tput his last name in. I did get messagessaying: “Thank you for not listing hislast name. That was the right thing todo.” ■In February 2006, “Enrique’s Journey”was published as a book byRandom House and is available inEnglish and, in Spanish, as a tradepaperback.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 29


Migration and ImmigrationA N ESSAY IN WOR DS A ND PHOTOGR A PHSImmigration to El Norte: Eight Stories of Hope and PerilBy Don BartlettiBOUND TO EL NORTE | TEOTIHUACAN, STATE OF MEXICO, MEXICO | SEPTEMBER 11, 2000Each year in the vast migration to theUnited States thousands of migrants,like this Honduran boy, stowawaythrough Mexico on the tops and sidesof freight trains. Some are childrenin search of their mothers who wentbefore them. At the end of more than1,500 miles aboard the freights, ElNorte comes only to the brave and thelucky.I’d been on this train from Veracruz to Mexico City all night, with it grindingrelentlessly through freezing mountain passes and tunnels thick withlocomotive diesel smoke. At dawn, most of the riders were huddled downnear the wheels in sheltered cavities out of the wind. Climbing a ladder up theside of a car, I emerged topside and was astonished to see the train disappearinginto a thick fog bank. Several cars ahead, I spotted the tiny figure of a boysitting alone. I sprinted closer across three or four hopper cars and made twohorizontal and three vertical frames of the boy who never moved or noticedme. The camera clicks were lost in the buffeting winds. I was overwhelmedby his solitude and hesitated to speak to him. Asking his name seemed morea rude intrusion than a journalistic necessity. Then the fog enveloped us. Theimage and his anonymity are a metaphor: a one-point perspective on an unclearhorizon for each migrant who won’t look back.30 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyGIFT FOR A NORTHBOUND MIGRANT | FORTIN, VERACRUZ, MEXICO | AUGUST 30, 2000It took me three days, trudging insweltering tropical heat along fivemiles of greasy railroad ties, to trackdown this legendary act of kindness.Finally I find a teen named Fabian infront of his family’s rail-side grocery,holding a few old oranges and waitingfor the train. The horn sounds. I anticipatethe coming scene, set the shutter,and compose the shot: Fabian at theleft and a blank space for the train atthe right. I’m set as the freight rollsin the frame—but Fabian disappearsfrom my viewfinder! He didn’t throwthe oranges from that perfect positionnext to the store and is now runningtoward the train. Muttering curses withthe camera smashed against my face,I chase after him and stumble over asecond set of tracks completely hiddenin the weeds. Flailing for balancebeside the thundering train, I pointmy camera in Fabian’s direction andfrantically mash the shutter as a boxcarwhizzes within a hair of my shoulder.Then the train is gone, Fabian smileswith contentment, his gift delivered.I’m forlorn, sure I missed the momentI’d worked so hard to find andhad come so close to capturing. Threeweeks later, with the filmstrip on thelight table at the Times office, I seeas expected two frames of the blurryboxcar racing by. And the next frameI saw is the picture on this page. Myheart exploded with amazement andjoy. In perfect focus amid the chaos andmotion, the orange passing from onehand to another: a simple exchangeand the touch between strangers thatmeans, “Go with God.” The memory,the image, and its message are deeplymoving to me—what I find most fulfillingas a documentary photographer.A stowaway migrant reaches out froma passing boxcar to both accept andthank Fabian Gonzalez (left), 16, forhis gift of an orange. Dozens of poorfamilies who live along the tracks inFortin have made it their mission totoss fruit, tortillas, water and sweatersto stowaways on the trains. AmongCentral American migrants, the giftsare legendary. Those who survive theconstant cruelty and neglect call this“the kindest place in Mexico.”Photo and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 31


Migration and ImmigrationSPENT | TONALA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO | AUGUST 3, 2000After 15 hours on the northboundtrain from the Guatemala border,Honduran laborer Santo AntonioGamay, 22, cries out from exhaustionand pleads for mercy. Just minutesfrom leaping off the boxcar, he prayshe can outrun Mexican immigrationauthorities waiting at the approachingcheckpoint. He’d been caught twicebefore.Photo and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.The roof of the boxcar was sizzlinghot, and my backpack squishedme like dough on a waffle iron.I was on my belly, peering down overthe edge to the space between the cars.Next to me was Dennis Contrarez, a12-year-old Honduran child travelingalone to San Diego to find his mother.He’d become my friend and sometimesguide on this trip and alerted me thatwe were slowing down. Two guys belowshifted nervously back and forthacross the couplers. I squeezed off afew frames as they leaned out lookingfor signs of La Migra Mexicana.Then Santo Antonio braced his legsover the couplers, fully extended hisarms, and gripped the railings. Whenhis head flopped back his anguishedexpression hit me like a shock. Abovethe thunder of the train cars and thescreeching of the wheels I couldn’thear if he was crying, yelling or moaning.This unguarded emotion is whatI always look for as a photojournalist.It’s what photographers call “a moment,”an unexpected action withlasting storytelling meaning. I barelymade two frames before he closed hismouth and opened his eyes. I climbeddown, and minutes before he jumpedhe gave me his name. He confidedthat he was praying he wouldn’t bedeported 200 miles to the Guatemalaborder on the Mexican Border Patrol’s“bus of tears.”32 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyTOO HUNGRY TO KNOCK | SAN YSIDRO, CALIFORNIA | JUNE 18, 1992Ilike to hang around one venueto observe how a scene developsover a long period of time. Hereat the recently fortified fence betweenthe United States and Mexico, I waspaying attention to changing lightconditions and learning who’s a smuggleror migrant. As I linger to becomefamiliar with a situation, I also becomea recognizable presence, easing suspicionsthat I’m an authority figure benton surveillance. I like to work closeto my subjects with a wide-angle lens.When people get used to seeing mycamera and me in the scene they areless likely to alter their behavior justbecause I’m there. As night falls, thefence is flooded with portable stadiumlights. Immigrants laugh that this enforcementtactic is not a deterrent butactually helps them by making it easierto see. Smugglers can recognize whenthe Border Patrol shift is changing, andthat’s when they make their move. Atabout 1 a.m. someone whistled, and Icould hear the clamor as about a dozenguys scrambled their way up the steelfence on the Tijuana side, droppeddown the California side, and ranpast me to the streets of San Ysidro. Istood still and cranked off five framesof the exact same perspective. Viewedtogether they look like a sequence froma quick-time movie. This one clearlymakes the point.Having caught the U.S. Border Patroloff-guard, a group of young men leapdown the north side of the 10-foothighsteel border fence. For citizens ofLatin America who are desperate forjobs, border enforcement and physicalbarriers are temporary delays in theirquest.Photo and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 33


Migration and ImmigrationHIGHWAY CAMP | ENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA | JULY 25, 1989Three brothers and two friends fromGuatemala bed down above Interstate5. Among San Diego’s most recentimmigrants, they have chosen thisperch to be near the strip mall belowwhere they wait each day for drive-byoffers of work.Photo and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.Iknew that migrants sometimeswalked from the border, around60 miles south of this scene, alongthe route of Interstate 5. Earlier inthe day I’d been in ditches beside thefreeway looking for signs of migratorypaths. While scanning this hillside,a single plastic bag tied to a bushcaught my eye. On a hunch, I waited.After nightfall, these five men filed upa path, confirming my intuition thatthis was a migrant’s camp. Naturallymy appearance was cause for surpriseand caution and introductions were inorder. Conversation was difficult abovethe roar of traffic, and three of the menwere brothers who spoke only thedialect of northern Guatemala. But theother two could understand my Spanish.I assured them I wasn’t workingfor “La Migra.” I explained that I wasfrom a large American newspaper andfor a long time I’d been taking photosof people like them who had traveledfrom the south to work here. Politely explainingthe ethics of journalism, I saidI couldn’t help them, but I wouldn’tstand in their way. Even before they arrivedI sensed the storytelling potentialof the scene. I wanted to show theirvulnerability as they slept, their boyishfaces in such a risky situation, theintimacy of their personal items—hats,shoes, blankets—contrasted with thestreaming traffic of Interstate 5. I stayedwith them most of two successive nightsuntil they relaxed in my presence andslipped into slumber.34 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyTen-year-old Gonzalo Lopez’sbasketball court is paved with the coldwinter mud of the San Luis Rey Riverbottom. So is the bedroom in hisplastic house. Struggling for a toeholdin America, his immigrant familyis living in a farm worker’s squattercamp. Things are rough. The tomatofield next door is too wet to plow. Andeven Gonzalo’s basketball hoop isn’tworking right, forcing him to dislodgeevery free throw with a branch.GONZALO’S BACKYARD | OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA | MARCH 16, 1991Gonzalo’s family accompaniedhis father to the fields of thisrich agricultural valley in theprosperous suburbs of North San DiegoCounty. I’d initially visited the campwith an outreach group from a localcommunity clinic. Since I live aboutfive miles away it became my customto stop by several times a week onmy own. I was especially interestedin the recent arrival of women andchildren to what had previously beena subculture of male farm workers.Now families were trying to eke outan existence during the worst of theCalifornia rainy season. No clean water,power or sanitation. But the sight ofthis little boy’s creation stopped me inmy tracks. A child’s natural inclinationto play is a delightful new addition tothe harsh life in a migrant camp.Photo and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 35


Migration and ImmigrationBORDERLINE CITIZEN | IMPERIAL BEACH, CALIFORNIA | MARCH 28, 2006Imet Wilfredo 17 years before wemade this portrait. In 1989 he’djust arrived in Carlsbad, Californiaand was strumming a corrido ona crummy guitar in a squatter’s campwhere he lived with his father. As I satwith them outside their brush-coveredshacks, I found Wilfredo and his dad tobe the most gracious hosts, and theyappreciated my attempts to show theirstruggle. I visited them frequently duringthe time they worked in the localfields. Over the years, our friendshiphas shown me the realities of the immigrantexperience on both sides ofPhoto and caption by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times.the border. In 1992 I joined Wilfredoin Oaxaca for the annual festival of hispueblo. Many of his fellow villagerswould also return home from El Norteat this time. I celebrated with them duringthe few weeks each year they spendin their home country with their family.I photographed Wilfredo in 2006 whenhe took his oath of citizenship thenwaved the tiny flag in celebration withhundreds of other new Americans. Ashis story continues to unfold, I intendto chronicle his assimilation in hisadopted country.Just hours ago, Wilfredo Ramirez tookthe oath of American citizenship. Heposes with his certificate on a beachwhere the border fence betweenMexico and the United States endsin the Pacific Ocean. It was 17 yearsago when he crossed illegally into theUnited States near here. Back thenhe found work picking tomatoes andearned just enough to support hisfamily in Oaxaca. Today he is foremanwith a northern San Diego Countyroofing company and speaks fluentEnglish. As a naturalized citizen, hedreams of legally bringing his wifeand children to live with him inCalifornia.36 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyScreaming high school students ridingatop a car wave the Mexican flag onthe first day of weeks of nationwidemarches that coincided with thecongressional immigration reformdebate. When her attempts to tear theAmerican flag failed, this girl tossed itto the feet of hundreds of schoolmateswho paraded behind.BORDERLINE HYSTERIA | SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA | MARCH 27, 2006It’s difficult to cover marches thatare in part staged for the media. Iignore people who “ham it up” forthe camera. When TV is around, andit was all over this event, people gocrazy. I try to shoot around the artificialhysteria. Finally I was out of the mediafrenzy, walking alone. From a quarterblock away, I saw the girl in this scenetrying to rip up the American flag. Shewas so involved in the activity and theflag was so hard to tear that I was ableto catch up with her and shoot a fewframes before she gave up and tossedthe flag to the street. ■Don Bartletti, a staff photographer with the Los Angeles Times, won the 2003Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his photo essay “Enrique’s Journey.” Hereceived a Polk Award for international reporting, the Grand Prize in the RobertF. Kennedy Journalism Awards for International Photography, and the ScrippsHoward Foundation National Journalism Award, among others. An exhibit of hiswork on immigration is at www.mopa.org/pages/exhipages/upcomex.aspNieman Reports / Fall 2006 37


Migration and ImmigrationBecoming Part of the Story to Tell It to Others‘In our approach to gathering this information, we knew there was a fine linebetween reporting and misrepresentation.’By Ralph OrtegaThis spring, editors at The Star-Ledger posed a question as theimmigration debate was heatingup in Washington, D.C.: How can animmigrant living illegally in this countrypurchase bogus Social Security cardsor other documents that are requiredfor them to work here? This questionwould pull me, as a reporter, into a sliceof our community’s life that neither Inor many of our newspaper’s readersknow very much about.In New Jersey, we knew temporaryjob agencies in immigrant-heavy citieslike New Brunswick and Elizabethsometimes serve as document mills,selling such false papers to theseworkers. We knew this because ourpaper’s immigration reporter, BrianDonohue, wrote last year about theplaces with offers of Trabajo Inmediato,or “Immediate Work,” painted intheir windows. We also followed suchcoverage being done by reporters inNew York and on the West Coast whohad written “gotcha” stories by confrontingstreet sellers who producedfakes within hours for cash.Even though I don’t normally reporton immigration, my editors chose mefor this assignment because I’m fluentin Spanish and able to pass for someonehere illegally looking to work.Taking the more traditional route,this had proven to be a very difficultstory to report, as Donohue had foundout. “When I tried to go through thefront door, I couldn’t even get intothe factory,” he said. He regarded myback-door approach into the story asjustified because of the difficulties he’dencountered when trying to report onthe shadowy life of these workers.For our newspaper, this was animportant story to share with our readers,given the big impact these illegalworkers have on our local economyand the questions being raised aboutchanges in federal policy regardinghow those who came to this countryillegally should be treated. “When youhave someone go through the processand is able to say, ‘This is what happensto an immigrant worker,’ it hits homewith readers,” said Assistant ManagingEditor Suzanne Pavkovic, who overseesimmigration coverage at the paper.Fitting InSpeaking only Spanish, I started myjourney in May on the streets of Elizabeth,a port city of about 125,000 whereabout half the residents are Hispanic.To those I met, I asked only, “How doI get papers?”I didn’t expect what happenednext.Shopkeepers and people on thestreets seemed puzzled that I wouldbe so brazen. All I would have to do,they told me, was get a job and thenrely on immigrant coworkers to hookme up with document sellers. So Iwalked into a temporary job agencyin Elizabeth and let them know that Ihad no work papers.“We will take care of papers later,”said the agency’s manager, who gaveme a job application.I gave her my name and address,but no telephone number. Ten minuteslater, I was being driven to workat a L’Oreal hair products warehousefor a day, where a Mexican who hadentered the country illegally, and wasrelying on bogus documents to work,offered help.Taking things slowly, I eventuallypaid him $140 to broker a deal witha seller. Within a month, I had a fakeSocial Security card and green cardand, with these in hand, I would beable to work anywhere.I also now had the information Ineeded to write my story, even if I neverplanned on having to actually work ata job to get the identification papers Ineeded. What I didn’t have—and stilldon’t have—is a clear understanding ofwhy most of the people I had to confrontabout what had transpired in securingthese documents were willing totalk so openly with me about the holesin the government’s current policy tocurtail illegal immigration, even afterI told them I was a reporter.Developing the StoryWhen I returned to each of the locationsI’d passed through posing as anillegal worker—as I worked to put myexperiences on the record—the temporaryjob agency’s staff, the warehousemanager, his corporate bosses, and theMexican intermediary and almost everyoneelse, agreed to talk to me. Eachoffered an “it wasn’t me” explanationfor what had happened:• The temp agency manager deferredto the owner of the business, whoblamed employee oversight for mebeing sent out on a job site withoutdocumentation;• The warehouse manager claimedit was the agency’s job to verify aworker’s status;• A L’Oreal spokeswoman released astatement saying the company hadnot encountered any problems withits workers or the temp agency inthe past.What had been such a straightforwardand relatively easy process forme was now being portrayed by itsparticipants as an anomaly. But becauseI’d documented what had been happening,and we now had participants38 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyspeaking on the record who were notdisputing the facts of what had happened(even if they were trying toshuffle the blame), we now had whatone of my editors called a “bulletproof ”story, albeit one that took some nontraditionalreporting to land.The Ground RulesIn our approach to gathering this information,we knew there was a fine linebetween reporting and misrepresentation.My editors and I agreed that inseeking information and documents Icould only offer responses to what wasasked of me—nothing more. The otherground rules were obvious: never lieand never risk my safety.After the story appeared on July23rd, it received positive feedback fromthose on both sides of the immigrationdebate, but there was some negativereaction as well. A journalist from Colombialiving in New Jersey left me amessage saying I had done a disserviceto all immigrants. I had violated theirtrust, she told me, and put their jobsand livelihoods at risk. “I am ashamedto think I am in the same business asyou. I hope you can sleep with a cleanconscience,” she said.Naturally, I worry whenever illegalimmigrants go on the record and, indoing so, possibly face deportation ortermination from a job. But neither thenewspaper nor I have yet heard of suchconsequences arising from our reportingon these issues. Certainly, thosewho engage in these illegal activitiestake a risk merely in doing what they do,and none seemed too surprised whenI approached them as a reporter.One thing I did learn in my reportingon this story was about the willingnessof people whose lives might be injeopardy from such public exposureto understand why I was doing thestory. I worked hard to communicate tothem that my intent was not to exploitthem; what I was trying to do was offerreaders a fair description of the challengestheir life circumstances presentto them. And the only way I could dothis effectively, I explained to them,was with their cooperation.Days after purchasing my boguspapers, I called Arturo Inclan, theMexican middleman who brokeredthe document sale. First, I mentionedthat I noticed my surname had beenmisspelled on my fake Social Securitycard. “Do not worry. Just make surethat if you have to sign your name onany forms, while presenting the card,that you use the same spelling,” Inclantold me. I thanked him for that advice,and then I requested another meeting.“Everything is fine, but I want to talk toyou about something very important,”I told him.Within a day, we met outside thetemp agency. I had replaced my redsweatshirt and ripped jeans with a tieand dress slacks. Inclan looked puzzledbut smiled and shook my hand. Indeed,it was difficult for me to explain to himthat I was not who he thought I was. “Iwant to thank you again for your help,and tell you that I am a reporter, workingon a story detailing how immigrantspurchase fake working papers. There,across the street, are two colleagues ofmine,” I said, pointing to photographerJohn O’Boyle and Donohue. It hadbeen decided that I shouldn’t confrontany of my sources alone. And as I toldthis to Inclan, Donohue later told methat he had the look of “the deer inthe headlights.”He agreed to speak to us for the story.His only condition was that no photosbe taken of his face. Instead, O’Boyleshot Inclan from behind as he pushedhis bicycle along the sidewalk on theway to a small park where we sat foran interview. Even with his approval, Icould not help feeling awkward.“It is all right, Rafa,” Inclan said smiling.He insisted he was not the sellerof the documents that I purchased,and that he had not profited from thesale. His only reason for helping me,or any immigrant in need, he said, wascompassion.“It is what we do for each other,”he said. ■Ralph Ortega is a reporter with TheStar-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey.The Long Journey Captured in Single MomentsA project about women’s global migration found a home in many different mediawithin the Tribune Company.By Stephen FranklinThe women formed a long linein the airport lounge, patientlywaiting as they were shiftedaround like baggage by immigrationofficials. They were South Asian maidswaiting to return home from a wealthygulf Arab nation, and the vision of whattheir lives must be like struck me. Sofar away. So different a life. So greata sacrifice.In a modest trailer in rural NorthCarolina, the Guatemalan womanwept as she wondered what to do.The meatpacking plant had let her gobecause she had been hurt and couldno longer do the assembly-line work.But her relatives who were taking careof her children back in her mountainvillage told her not to return homesince there was no work for her there,either. Another woman drawn by theNieman Reports / Fall 2006 39


Migration and Immigrationdream of a better life to a lonely, distantplace.It was these images of women,crossing borders, creating new lives,that convinced me to propose a projectat the Chicago Tribune about thefeminization of migration. There was,as I discovered, a vast trove of researchdescribing the massive changes takingplace in the lives of predominantlypoor, uneducated women around theglobe. But these parades of femalehumanity, absent the celebratory frivolityof most parades, had somehowbeen rendered invisible to all but thosewhose lives were touched by thesemigratory journeys.I could find no articles in any U.S.newspaper that wove the threads ofthis tale together. There was nothingto explain to an American audiencethat for the first time as many womenas men now transport themselves, andsometimes a few worldly goods, acrossnational borders. Nor have Americanslearned from the press that there areas many good as bad forces pushingwomen to start their lives anew in aforeign land.At its core, this is a story about victoryand defeat, about vulnerability andstrength. It is about women being freedfrom traditional bonds and taboos,even while many are fleeing wars orescaping from horrible enslavement.These are some of the elements I sawin this story when I pitched it to theChicago Tribune’s WomanNews section.This part of the paper had recentlypublished a largely photo-driven seriesabout the decades of women’s lives,and I envisioned the treatment of thistopic to be similar—a project drivenby photographs and tightly writtenscenes. In telling these stories, therewould not be a need for outsiders’analysis. I also believed that becauseChicago is a city of immigrants, such aproject would resonate with many inour community.Geoff Brown, the associate managingeditor for features, liked my proposal,especially the idea of telling thestory through the lens of moments, orscenes, and not relying on long narratives.I’d offered as an example the storyabout a women’s departure; we’d tellour readers what she was carrying inher suitcase on the day she left homeand why the items she selected matteredto her.Choosing Stories to TellWith Geoff ’s approval, along withthat of Cassandra West, the Woman-News editor, we assembled a groupof reporters. The decision was madeto use only one photographer so theseries’ themes would be conveyedwith a consistent visual perspective.That became Heather Stone’s job. Myreporting colleagues were Monica Eng,T. Shawn Taylor, Meg McSherry Breslin,and Patrice Jones. I was the only malereporter assigned to this series and oneof only two (along with Patrice) who’dbeen a foreign correspondent.For us to learn how best to approachour reporting, we met with experts,dug through scholarly and governmentreports and, as a group, came upwith a strategy. What we decided wasto tell the story of the feminization ofglobal migration from the perspectiveof three key moments in the journey:when these women—many of whomare mothers traveling without theirchildren—left their homes, as theytraveled, and when they arrived.Not only have women’s passageschanged immigration patterns, butalso the migratory journey changeswomen. The moments we hoped tocapture would reflect these transformations,and women from everypart of the world, every age group,would illuminate them. Because wealso wanted our readers to realizehow their family’s experiences—andtheir own—provided them commonground, we asked seven female reportersand editors, each of whom was animmigrant or the child of an immigrantmother, to tell how their mothers’journeys affected their lives.Besides reporting we did in theChicago area, we traveled to New Yorkand Los Angeles and then to Honduras,Guatemala and Mexico. These foreigndestinations were where we decided tobegin the stories about women on themove. These choices made sense dueto Chicago’s large and growing Latinopopulation. In addition, we knew wewould want to share this series withHoy, the Tribune Company’s Spanishlanguagedaily, so this gave us anotherreason to focus primarily on the movementof women migrants from southof our border.As we began working with colleaguesat the Tribune’s Web site andwith those who work on graphic presentationof news, more opportunitiesto bring this reporting to differentaudiences opened up. With the helpof multimedia producer ChristopherBooker, a Web page provided a wayfor the voices of the women we talkedwith in Central America to be heard.This option gave readers a tactile linkwith the women we wrote about inour stories. Danielle Gordon, a producerwith Chicagotribune.com, whooversaw the creation of the Web page,crafted a visual presentation that gaveviewers a sense of what it feels like tostart such a journey.Using the Web opened up amazingways to share these stories; it also allowedus to write more than we couldfit in the newspaper. Given this new wayto display our work, we experimentedwith writing that at times baffled copyeditors.It seemed unorthodox—and itprobably would have been if the storieshad only been targeted to appear onnewspaper pages—but most of ourreporting did get published, on onemedium or another.Working in more than one mediumenriched our work. Heather’s eye fordetail—and her insistence on it—gaveus images that truly captured thejourneys’ pivotal moments. In a storywe told about a young Guatemalanwoman who died trying to cross theArizona desert, we’d met her familyin Guatemala but hadn’t gone to theplace where she and so many othershad lost their lives. So Heather and Iwent to find this spot in the desert,and while in Arizona we also coveredseveral daily stories about the recordsurge in deaths of migrants crossingfrom Mexico. Without going to thisplace, there would have been a visualhole in the documentary that Tribunevideographers Brad Piper and John Owenswere preparing along with us, not40 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyto mention the absence there wouldhave been in the photo essay Heatherprepared about women heading northfrom Central America.Could we have done more? Clearly,yes. Could our project have had morespace than the 10 pages it had in thenewspaper? Probably. But what we didwas to tell an important story that hadnot been told in this way before. Ourreporting now seems quite prescientgiven the intense focus on illegal immigration.On December 28th, the day the projectran, Seka Palikuca, who works onthe Tribune’s business copy desk, faxeda copy of her story about her mother’sjourney from Yugoslavia to her mom,who’d been a chemist in her formercountry. When Seka was growing up,her mother worked in factory jobs, asa nanny and a janitorial supervisor tosupport her family. Seka wrote abouthow she learned from her mother howto become a self-sufficient woman.Later that morning, she called to findout what her mom thought about herstory. Her mother couldn’t come tothe phone; she was holding the storyand crying. ■Stephen Franklin is a reporter withthe Chicago Tribune. A former foreigncorrespondent in the Middle East, hewill be working overseas next yearas a Knight International Press Fellowwith the International Center forJournalists. The project described inthis article—its photo show, documentaryfilm, and stories—is availableonline at www.chicagotribune.com/bordersShrinking Space, Tight Budgets—And a StoryNeeding to Be Told‘Despite the necessity to trim back on our ambition, we held tight to our vision ofsharing the emotion of these women’s stories with our readers.’By Geoff BrownSteve Franklin’s idea enchantedme instantly. Instead of proposingencyclopedic treatises aboutwomen and global migration, he wascommitted to shorter, sharply focusedpieces on particular moments in thesewomen’s journeys as a way of illuminatingsome of the key issues. As he talkedabout his vision for this project, in mymind’s eye I saw a lot of sidebars, helpfuleye-grabbing graphics, and photocut-lines that we could use to relievethese mini-narratives of their statisticalor service-information burdens.How could I say no? All we neededwas money and space; I figured theformer would be the problem, but itturned out the latter was nearly a dealbreaker.But none of this was knownin the first bloom of our love for thisproject.At the Tribune, when an appealingand expensive idea comes our way, wecheck in with folks who hold the pursestrings. (Steve had already persuadeddeputy managing editor Jim Warren,who is my boss in features, and managingeditor Jim O’Shea of the merit ofhis idea.) To them, we pledged to keepcosts down in every way possible; oneway of doing this was for Steve to producestories for the national desk whilehe did reporting on this project.Our initial plan—in early May of2005—was to run three large packagesof stories, either monthly or biweekly,in the WomanNews section. But circumstancesof space in the newspaper,resources in the newsroom, andreporting time devoted to this projectgradually chipped away at our vision.As discouraging as this was, our teamsoldiered on and held out hope we’dbe able to do a separate, special sectionand insert it into WomanNews.Editing time at the Tribune was at apremium and so we’d experience lagsbetween the burst of editing. Directcommunication with team memberswasn’t easy to accomplish because eachof the team members was an importantcog in the newspaper and, on a givenday, each might be assigned to a differentstory. But there’s nothing like adeadline to get journalists moving, andwe faced a big one. The WomanNewssection—where we felt the projectbelonged—needed to have a finishedproduct by the end of 2005. And the TVand online engines were working onparallel tracks. Once they were readyto go, the project would need to bepublished in the newspaper.However, as the year was rushingto a close, our newsprint budget hadbeen gobbled up by extensive coverageof two hurricanes and a baseballchampionship in Chicago. We nowhad to confront an ugly reality: 30pounds of goodies had to fit into one10-pound bag, not the three 10-poundbags we were counting on. Quicklywe revised our thinking about thenumber of stories, their lengths and,most important, their order. Ourplan had been to follow the journeys’arc chronologically—women leavinghome, making the journey to a newland, and touching down far away,suffering or prospering.Despite the necessity to trim backNieman Reports / Fall 2006 41


Migration and Immigrationon our ambition, we held tight toour vision of sharing the emotion ofthese women’s stories with our readers.And WomanNews cleared out itsentire 10-page section so we could tellthis story from its powerful openingscene to its thrilling conclusion. Todo this, we used all manner of visualand prose storytelling. Even with thereduced length—as we whittled 30pounds down to 10—our hope neverfaded that once readers came to knowthese women’s stories they would cry,mourn and exult with them.Losing so much of our valuable reportingin the newspaper’s coveragewas for all of us a disappointment,if an understandable one given theeconomic realities of print publishingtoday. But we never gave up our fightto introduce these incredible survivorsand also tell the story of one youngwoman who died along the way.Our effort offers a valuable lessonfor others who want to do importantprojects like this one in an era of decliningnewsroom resources. We alwaysconsidered this a local story, regardlessof how far away our writers traveled.Our plan from the start was to connectour reporting travels to the numerousimmigrant communities in the Chicagoarea. Perhaps the primary differencebetween what our reporters did andwhat newsrooms with smaller budgetsmight accomplish was the luxury offoreign datelines. In fact, had we beentold we couldn’t travel, Plan B wasfor us to report this project at home.That’s why I was never as worried asSteve was that this project might neverhappen. I knew—and the reportingon this project proved me right—thatremarkable stories about global migrationcould be reported in Chicago andits suburbs.More than anything, the successof this project can be traced to theteam’s execution of the core mission:doing the research they needed to doto find women whose lives told thisstory; focusing on key dramatic moments,and presenting them throughpoignant and crisp writing, stunningphotography, strong graphic display,and careful editing.Whether executed around the globeor in a newspaper’s backyard, projectslike this one require the one thingmoney can’t provide: passion. ■Geoff Brown is associate managingeditor for features with the ChicagoTribune.PHOTO ESSAYImmigrants Grapple With Man and ‘The Beast’By Heather StoneDaisy Méndez Mendoza ofHonduras cries as she describeshow she was raped three yearsago on her first trip across theborder between Guatemala andMexico. “I don’t feel safe. I don’t.A woman is in much greaterdanger than a man,” she says,her face reddened by her tearsand breathless heat. This wasMendoza’s second attempt to goto the United States. On this tripshe was propositioned by otherwomen to work as a prostitute inone of the border towns. She wastaking a small break from herjourney at the Casa del Migrante,a small haven for immigrantslocated near Tapachula, Mexico.April 2005. Photo and caption byHeather Stone/Chicago Tribune.42 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyA Honduran woman debateswhether she should attemptjumping onto the train inCiudad Hidalgo, the city onthe Mexican side of the bordernear Guatemala. The trainis one of the most dangerousplaces for women. Many areraped. Gangs run the train androb many of the immigrants,and injuries occur frequentlywhen people fall off the train.April 2005.“Wendy,” a prostitute,works and lives in asmall, airless cementblock room in the backof a bar, where she gets$6 from each customer.On good days, shesaid that she has abouteight customers. Manywomen never make itacross the border due tothe high cost of hiring a“coyote.” Tecun Uman,Guatemala, April 2005.Photos and captions byHeather Stone/ChicagoTribune.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 43


Migration and ImmigrationThe child of an immigrantwho was run over by “TheBeast,” the nickname for afreight train on the Chiapas-Mayab railway that immigrantsuse for transport, sleepsunder a cross with crutchesat the Inn of Jesus the GoodFather for the Poor and Immigrantsin Tapachula, Mexico.The inn is run by Olga Sanchez,who lives in Tapachula,which is on the border ofGuatemala. Fourteen yearsago, she started the GoodFather shelter to help illegalCentral American immigrantswho suffered horrific accidentstrying to cross Mexico’s borderon their way to the UnitedStates. April 2005.Immigrants andmerchants crossthe Suchiate River,which bordersMexico and Guatemalanear the townof Tecun Uman,Guatemala, about1,500 miles fromthe U.S. border.Even though thereis an official bordercrossing at TecunUman into Mexico,many people chooseto wade through thewater or go by raft.Helping migrantscross the river is asmall industry forferry-men who willtake people acrosson an inner tuberaft for a coupleof quetzales. April2005.Photos and captions by Heather Stone/Chicago Tribune.44 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyMaría Magdalena Bresuela-Cambalas, 25, left her three children to find a way tosupport them. She would not beg for any man’s support, she told me. Nor, she added,would she sell herself. So when she was laid off last fall from a foreign-owned clothingfactory in El Salvador, where she earned $34 a week, she headed north. Getting on“The Beast” in Ciudad Hidalgo, where many immigrants from Guatemala begin theirtrain ride in Mexico, wasn’t a problem. But soon she had to get off because Mexicanimmigration inspectors were up ahead. One of the men traveling with her was supposedto hold her as she jumped, but she slipped and fell under the train’s wheels. Onefoot was cut off; another was still dangling. Here she is seen working on her embroideryat the Inn of Jesus the Good Father for the Poor and Immigrants in Tapachula,Mexico. April 2005. ■Heather Stone has been a staffphotographer at the Chicago Tribunesince 1998. Photo and caption byHeather Stone/Chicago Tribune.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 45


Migration and ImmigrationThe Tribune’s Stories Reach a Spanish-SpeakingAudienceUsing corporate synergy, ‘Crossing Borders’ gets picked up by Hoy newspapers, andHispanic readers begin to discuss illegal immigration online.By Alejandro EscalonaAs words like “synergy” and “convergence”become news-mediabuzzwords, more and moreconnections are being made betweenmainstream and Spanish-speakingnews media in the United States.Publishing stories simultaneously inboth languages—and in print andonline—is a strategy used by theTribune Company, which publishesHoy newspapers in NewYork, Chicago and Los Angeles.Sometimes this “strategy” is putinto motion with little more thana casual conversation between areporter and editor, and that isexactly what happened with the“Crossing Borders” project publishedlast December in the ChicagoTribune and in Hoy.When I heard Chicago Tribunereporter Steve Franklin talking aboutthis project on the feminization ofimmigration, I sensed instantly thatthese stories about women riskingeverything to come to this countrywould resonate with Hoy’s Spanishlanguagereaders. When the Tribune’sproject was published, we were ableto put some of its stories into Hoy ontwo consecutive days, 1 and as coverstories in the three editions. Then ournational editor, Javier Aldape, decidedto design a link in Hoy’s Web site sothat our readers would be able to seethe entire 10-page package of wordsand images that had appeared in theChicago Tribune.The online experience turned out tobe a remarkable one for our readers.We invited them to share stories abouthow they came to the United States,and their responses offered all whocame to the site new windows throughwhich to see more about what these... this project has given us reasonto think and act more broadly andcreatively about the ways we cancreate these print andonline connections.journeys are like. At one point, thereaders’ reactions were transformedinto something like a Weblog in whichreaders debated among themselves thereasons why these immigrant womenrisked their lives to try to come to thiscountry. Reading their reactions andinsights shed a lot of light on Hispanics’views about immigration. In retrospect,much of what they wrote anticipatedthe national debate about immigrationnow taking place.Our joint publication of “CrossingBorders” signals the way in which mediacompanies can bring news and informationto people in diverse ways anddifferent languages. With this project,the content of the articles provided anatural fit. Seeing how well the synergyworked with this project has given usreason to think and act more broadlyand creatively about the ways we cancreate these print and online connections.To make sure such connectionscontinue to happen, Hoy and the ChicagoTribune metro staff are in contacton a daily basis, as reporters in bothnewsrooms share informationand Hoy’s editors have accessto the Tribune’s story budgets.Recently Hoy pitched a storyto the Tribune about a localalderwoman, Emma Mitts, whowas blaming garbage and ratsin her district on the increasingnumber of Hispanic residents inthe area. Hoy and the ChicagoTribune published the samestory—reported by an Hoy reporter—about her remarks. Reaction was largeand immediate, as was the response ofelected officials. Representative JesseL. Jackson, Jr. asked the alderwomanto retract and publicly apologize to theHispanic community. Mitts did. Andboth papers then published a followupstory on her apology.While “Crossing Borders” offered usthe opportunity to glimpse importantmoments of these women’s lives, it alsogave us a chance to look into our ownfuture. We like what we see.!■Alejandro Escalona is editor of HoyChicago, a daily Spanish newspaperpublished by the Tribune Company.1Hoy published the stories of Daisy Méndez Mendoza, a Honduran woman who was raped whilein Mexico trying to reach the United States; Salvadorian María Magdalena Bresuela-Cambalas,who lost her legs when she fell under a train, and Yolanda Echeverria, a Mexican who was forcedinto prostitution at the border before finally escaping to Los Angeles.46 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


A Visual Telling of Immigrants’ StoriesReporters, photographers and videographers combined their skills to create amultimedia presentation with content unique to the online experience.By John OwensAbout the JourneyThe “Crossing Borders” projectwas beset by postponementsand obstacles as it made its wayfrom reporter Steve Franklin’s initialvision onto the pages of the ChicagoTribune. Less problematic was itsmultimedia presentation—includinga 44-minute documentary, “WomenCrossing Borders,” and other visual andaudio storytelling components—andthis offers a good example of how welljournalists from different disciplinescan work together in creatingcompelling storytellingacross several media platforms.I wrote and produced“Women Crossing Borders,”which was broadcast onCLTV, a 24-hour all-newsChicago station owned bythe Tribune Company, inNovember 2005. 1 With itsintensely personal focus, itsstories about the plight offemale immigrants who nowlive in the United States isamong my favorites of the10 documentaries I’ve producedfor the Tribune Company since2003. Some stories in the documentaryecho what appeared in the newspaper;others are unique to the film.By the time I heard about the ChicagoTribune project in the summerof 2005, Steve Franklin was alreadycollecting audio on his reporting tripsto Guatemala and Mexico. He’d takena high-quality digital recorder withhim on the suggestion of Mark Hinojosa,who supervises our multimediadepartment and was thinking aboutpossibilities for this project to expandto the Web. Franklin had been skepticalabout the use of multimedia in hisreporting in part because he, like manyof his colleagues, felt the extra equipment—andadditional reporting obligation—wouldinterfere with insteadof enhance his storytelling ability. Butafter using the equipment, Franklinbecame an enthusiastic convert, andthat is what led him to have discussionswith me about a video component tothis project.The Tribune’s multimedia group issmall; I am the only senior producer,working with two videographers/videoproducers, an engineer, a senior newseditor, and an associate managingeditor, Mark Hinojosa. Being so small,we operate in a scaled-down fashion.When Franklin told us he was headingto the Arizona border to report,Hinojosa sent a bare-bones videocrew—Bradley Piper, our senior videoproducer—with him and the Tribune’sphotographer, Heather Stone. (A translator,Maria Ochoa, accompanied themlater on this trip.) Piper had spent twomonths in Iraq with his Tribune printcolleagues at the start of the war sohe had experience working with printreporters in the field, and he usedthose skills here. Aside from his workas a videographer and a segment/fieldproducer, responsible for setting upand conducting interviews at times, healso works on occasion as a coach forprint reporters on visual storytelling.Because Franklin had not workedin the field with a videographer,Piper helped him tobe aware of the differencesinvolved between print andvideo interviews. “[Steve]would e-mail me to let meknow what interviews hehad set up,” Piper said. “I’dlet him know what videoI would need to supportthe interview. And whenhe did the interviews, Ihad to remind him not tointerrupt—that we neededto hear the responses. Asthe week went on, thingsworked better.” When Stevehad to cover a breaking news story,Piper and Stone worked on their ownto get video and photographs of a PimaCounty [Arizona] coroner as he triedto identify the body of a female illegalimmigrant who died near the border.Video and still photographers can beat odds with each other because of thedifferent disciplines involved with theirwork, but Piper and Stone worked welltogether. As Piper recalls, “I tried to beaware of where she was, so I didn’t getinto her shots.”Once back in Chicago, we realized1The documentary, along with other images and sound from the reporting on this project, can beseen and heard online at www.chicagotribune.com/bordersNieman Reports / Fall 2006 47


Migration and Immigrationthat what we’d shot could be ourdocumentary’s centerpiece. But tomake the documentary work to accompanythe print project, we’d needto involve four other Tribune reporterswho were writing stories about womenwho had made the migrant’s journeyto Chicago. Those reporters helpedus to set up on-camera interviews in asmall multimedia studio in the TribuneTower with women they’d profiledand, after that initial interview, I set up“location” shoots at their homes andin their communities and workplaces.(At times, Stone accompanied us onthe shoots.)In some cases, those interviewed forthe Tribune’s story refused to appearon camera: One woman who escapedthe civil war in Sudan was concernedabout the safety of her relatives stillthere; another woman was a victimof human trafficking who did notwant to be identified. I replaced thesestories with others about female immigrantstudents at Chicago’s SennHigh School, where there are morethan 80 ethnic groups represented inthe student body. Historic perspectiveemerged through the stories of Chicago’slegendary reformer Jane Addamsand her Hull House, which was hometo many female immigrants during theturn of the 20th century.Our last interviews were with theTribune reporters who told of theirinvolvement with this project. WGNRadio’s news anchor, Andrea Darlas,narrated the documentary, which tookabout two weeks to edit. Originally,we’d hoped to coordinate the online,broadcast and print versions of thisproject so they would surface at thesame time, but that did not happen.Our documentary aired a month earlierthan when the newspaper andonline versions of “Crossing Borders”appeared.For all the success we experiencedwith the project’s multimedia efforts,the same cannot be said of some of itsother elements. “Crossing Borders”turned out to be the last full sectionof WomanNews ever published; soonafter, the section was eliminated in acost-cutting move by the Tribune. Somejobs were also eliminated around thistime, including mine and Piper’s. (Wewere soon rehired.) However, oneof the WomanNews reporters whoworked with us was laid off alongwith several colleagues just after thisstory was published. There were otherdisappointments about the project, aswell. The online version, though welldesigned to feature the documentary,audio interviews, and first-personstories from Tribune reporters whoseparents were immigrants (only availableonline), was never prominentlydisplayed on the Chicago Tribune’sWeb site.But despite these disappointments,the multimedia presentation points toa time ahead when print, online andbroadcast journalists will combinetheir talent and ingenuity to createcompelling presentations of storiesacross multiple platforms. ■John Owens is senior producer of theTribune’s multimedia group.Reporting on the Deaths of Those Who Make theJourney North‘With the mounting anti-illegal immigration backlash, readers have complainedmore and more about the stories we do about the deaths.’By Susan CarrollIkeep the autopsy reports in cardboardfiling boxes labeled with“Border Deaths” and the year inwhich they were found. I have hundredsof reports, each an incompletestory—a baby girl dressed in a greenjumper, a 16 year old with a Bible inher backpack, a young man dressedlike he was going to school wearinga herringbone sweater. His report isonly a few pages. Besides the sweaterall that was left of him was bones.I put these boxes in a closet a fewmonths ago because I got tired oflooking at them. Many of these reportsremind me of stories I never gotaround to telling. Others take me backto places I would like to forget in thedesert where the smell of the creosoteafter a monsoon rain mingles with thestench of decomposition.Covering deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border is challenging but alsoincredibly rewarding. These storiesare often unpopular with readers anddifficult to tell because they requirestrong support from editors. They oftennecessitate reporting along the borderand deep into Mexico to find survivorsor family members. Over the years, I’vestruggled to balance objectivity andcompassion as I’ve stood with my taperecorder rolling as an agent tries to savea dying woman in the remote desert.I’ve also run into major problemsgetting an accurate count of borderdeaths from the U.S. Border Patrol. It’snot that officials in Washington, D.C.have the information and are refusingto give it out; they don’t track all of thedeaths. To arrive at a more accuratecount, journalists have to take on an48 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyindependent watchdog role and pulltogether the statistics from medicalexaminers, foreign consulates, and lawenforcement along the border.In The Arizona Republic’s newsroom,we’ve struggled to decide howto cover the rising number of deaths.Do we write brief mentions of eachone? Not usually. Sometimes our coverageseems like a sad numbers game.A dozen deaths in a weekend typicallywarrants an inside story. But day afterday, who will read about a body hereand a body there? We’ve tried to avoidwriting articles that just recite the numberof deaths recorded by the BorderPatrol in its fiscal year, declare it to bea new record, and quote a spokesperson.Instead, we focus on telling storiesabout the people who have died, andthen we also investigate more fully thenumber of deaths recorded as a way ofholding the government accountablefor its tally.With the mounting anti-illegalimmigration backlash, readers havecomplained more and more about thestories we do about the deaths. Theybelieve that in doing these stories thenewspaper is being sympathetic topeople who break the law. As the personat the paper who reports on this topicmost often, I am grateful that my editorsand those at other newspapers—suchas the Los Angeles Times and TheWashington Post—remain committedto giving reporters the space and timethey need to tell these stories.Tracking the Lives of theDeadIn the five years I’ve been doing thiskind of reporting, I’ve found that thebest way is to start out on the groundwith the U.S. Border Patrol’s elitesearch and rescue team that respondsto calls for medical help in the desert.I’ve been on ride-alongs when eightbodies have been found in a singleday. And there has been no effort torestrict my access.For me, the story—and my reporting—oftenstarts with the discoveryof the body. If no relatives or friendsstayed to search for help, there is oftenlittle information, aside from perhapsa Mexican ID card, to trace the trailback to a family member. Foreignconsulates are typically very helpfulwith information on the hometowns ofthe people who die, but I’ve run intomajor logistical problems when I’vetraveled to towns with no regular busservice to try to visit families that haveno telephone. Sometimes, there is noother way to get these stories than tosimply go there and take the chancethat if you’re respectful and speakSpanish, family members and friendsof the victim will talk with you.These stories also reach into immigrantcommunities in small-townAmerica and our nation’s big cities.Many of the undocumented immigrantswho die on their journey north arecoming here to join relatives alreadyliving in the United States. Mexicanconsulates near the families of the deadDeath in the DesertThe Arizona Republic started trackingundocumented immigrant deaths in2003 using medical examiner, foreignconsulate, and law enforcement reports.Susan Carroll wrote the followingwords to introduce a published listof the 205 bodies or skeletal remainsfound that year in Arizona.It is a lonely place to die, out in the softsandy washes. The desert floor, with itsvolcanic rock, can reach 160 degrees.Most people go down slowly. Bloodstarts to seep into the lungs. Exposedskin burns and the sweat glands shutdown. Little hemorrhages, tiny leaks,start in the heart. When the body temperaturereaches 107, the brain cooksand the delirium starts.Some migrants claw at the groundwith their fingernails, trying to hollowout a cooler spot to die. Otherspull themselves through the sand ontheir bellies, like they’re swimmersor snakes. The madness sometimesprompts people to slit their own throatsor to hang themselves from trees withtheir belts.This past year, the bodies of 205 undocumentedimmigrants were foundtypically are notified very quickly andoften can be a great resource for thesestories for reporters who are not basedon the border.With the issue of border numbers,U.S. newspapers need to closelymonitor the way the U.S. Border Patroltracks deaths. They didn’t start keepingrecords until the 1998-1999 fiscalyear and tailored the criteria to be verynarrow: The migrant must be in theprocess of crossing and within a certaindistance from the border to be includedin their count. Most difficult of all is therequirement that there be some kindof proof that the person who died wasundocumented. In some cases, theyonly count the death if an agent foundthe body or if it was reported directlyto them by another law enforcementagency. At one point, the Tucson sector,the deadliest along the border, quietlyin Arizona. Official notations of theirdeaths are sketchy, contained in hundredsof pages of government reports.Beyond the official facts, there aresometimes little details, glimpses, ofthe people who died. Maria HernandezPerez was No. 93. She was almost two.She had thick brown hair and eyes thecolor of chocolate. Kelia Velazquez-Gonzalez, 16, carried a Bible in herbackpack. She was No. 109.In some cases, stories of heroism orloyalty or love survive. Like the BorderPatrol agent who performed cardiopulmonaryresuscitation on a dead man,hoping for a miracle. Or the group ofmigrants who, with law officers andparamedics, helped carry their deadcompanion out of the desert. Or thehusband who sat with his dead wifethrough the night.Other stories are almost entirely lostin the desolate stretches that separatethe United States and Mexico. Withinweeks, the heat makes mummies out ofmen. Animals carry off their bones andbelongings. Many say their last wordsto an empty sky. John Doe, No. 143,died with a rosary encircling his neck.His eyes were wide open. ■Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 49


Migration and Immigrationchanged its counting method withouttelling journalists; they excluded skeletalremains and smugglers from theircount and then claimed that borderdeaths had decreased.The Border Patrol in Arizona recentlymodified counting methods andnow works more closely with medicalexaminers, but I suspect the problem ofunderreporting deaths spans the entireU.S-Mexico border. I sometimes wonderhow many undocumented immigrantswere buried in paupers’ gravesbut never were tallied by the BorderPatrol because no one is holding thefederal government accountable.I try not to dwell on these deaths,but sometimes I think about the day Isaw the woman die out in the desert.The undocumented immigrant whoflagged down the Border Patrol stoodthere with me as her ragged breathingstopped. The words the officer spoketo me at that moment have stayedwith me since that day. “At times,” hesaid, “one has regrets.” When I wrotethe story on the woman’s death, themorgue was backed up, and it tookweeks to identify her body. So whenwe went to press, I didn’t even knowher name yet. It was Raquel HernandezCruz. I wish that was in the story.As immigration has grown into amajor, national news story, newspapersfrom across the country havedone excellent work covering borderdeaths, explaining the economic forcesthat drive massive immigration andtelling the stories of those who died.But I wondered earlier this summer,as I shopped for more boxes for moreautopsy reports, if we’re really doingenough. ■Susan Carroll has covered the U.S.-Mexico border for five years. She is asenior reporter, based in Tucson, forThe Arizona Republic. She has twicebeen named Arizona’s Virg Hill Journalistof the Year.PHOTO ESSAYRescue and Death Along the BorderBy Pat ShannahanBorder Patrol Search Traumaand Rescue [Borstar] agentLance Dehler helps walk NageliContreras to safety after rescuingher from a wildfire eightmiles north of Mexico. She waspart of a group from Puebla,Mexico that entered the UnitedStates illegally. June 2006.Photo and caption by Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic photos printed with permission.50 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyA group of undocumented immigrants walk in a line towards aBorder Patrol vehicle after being caught a few miles north of theborder. The group was spotted by a Border Patrol helicopter. Thepilot then guided agents on foot to the group’s location.Border Patrol agent Ruben Salcidotries to give water to an unconsciouswoman found under a tree south ofThree Points, Arizona. She was leftbehind by a group of people crossingthe border from Mexico to the UnitedStates. She was a few days walk fromthe border when overcome by theheat. Despite every effort by the medicalteam, they were unable to save her.June 2004.Photos and captions by Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic photos printed with permission.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 51


Migration and ImmigrationArcheologists discoveredthis young woman’s skeletonon a military bombingrange in southwestern Arizonaabout 40 miles northof the U.S.-Mexico borderin November 2003. Sherested in a shallow grave,marked by a creosote crossand a pink rosary.An undocumented immigrant drinks water after beingrescued in the Arizona desert. Border Patrol agentsworked through the afternoon into the night to find thegroup that used a cell phone to call for help once theyrealized they were lost. Agents said the group was out ofwater and would probably have died the following dayhad they not been rescued.Along the Arizona border, agents find adistressed, undocumented immigrant inthe desert. Many die here from heat exposureand dehydration in temperatures thatcan easily top 100 degrees. ■Pat Shannahan has been a staff photojournalistat The Arizona Republic forthe past five years. He was twice namedArizona Photographer of the Year by theArizona Press Club. Photos and captionsby Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republicphotos printed with permission.52 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyPartnership and Perseverance Result in a StoryRarely ToldThough news coverage of illegal immigration often lacks the essential voices andimages of migrant workers, journalists at The Sacramento Bee included both.By Tom KnudsonWe had spent weeks looking forthe migrant forest workers.Now that we’d found them,in a small, dreary town in Oregon, Iwas stunned by the stories they weretelling. One watched a coworker die,crushed beneath the wheels of a trailer.Another was struck by a falling tree andcould barely walk. Others told of beingcheated out of wages, exposed to toxicherbicides, and working without safetygear or health insurance.Their tales were gripping, but theycame with a catch. None of the menwould let us use his name in an article,much less allow himself to be photographedby my colleague and photojournalistHector Amezcua. The riskswere too high. As one explained: “Yousay something, youlose your job.”N e w s p a p e r sare filled with articlesthese daysabout immigration,much of themabout people whoare in this countryillegally. Lookclosely, however,at the coverageand an importantvoice—and an essentialimage—isoften missing:the people gettingtheir handsdirty doing thejobs some sayAmericans won’tdo—the migrantworkers. For them,visibility often carriesa steep price:Not only might it cost them their job,many fear speaking out could lead todeportation, too. It is far safer, mostbelieve, to live and work in the shadows—evenif it means toiling underdangerous conditions or earning lessthan the legal wage. For the rare migrantworker who might want to speakabout his or her life, language presentsanother problem. In California, manyof the migrant workers speak onlySpanish, while most journalists “Elloshablan español muy poquito.” (Theyspeak very little Spanish.)As journalists working for The SacramentoBee, Hector and I wanted tolet readers know about the abuse ofLatino forest workers. But we wantedour reporting to be credible to haveNicolasa Ríos is pulled from her son’s coffin as the hearse that would carry his bodyarrived. “Please leave me alone, let me go with him. I’m going crazy,’” Ríos yelleduncontrollably as family members attempted to calm her. January 2005. Photo by HectorAmezcua/The Sacramento Bee.maximum impact, and to do this meantthat we needed the men to tell us theirstories on the record and for attribution.We wanted to name names, takepictures, and bring the pineros—themen of the pines—out of the shadows.That was our goal. Accomplishing it,though, would take us a year and involvetravel across the western UnitedStates, Mexico and Guatemala.Looking back, what helped us themost is something in short supplyin journalism these days—time. Thiswas not a story that could be finishedin one week—or even in six. To findthese workers, then to earn their trust,meant that we’d inevitably encounterdead ends, knock on doors that neveropened, and make calls that were neverreturned. Often, inthe course of ourreporting, we’dcome home emptyhandedand frustrated.At times, wewondered whetherthis story could betold.We worried, too,that our projecteditor, Amy Pyle,would lose faithand want to moveon to somethingnew. But she neverdid. Like us, shewas tantalized bythe stories we werehearing—by thechance to connectthe dots betweeninjured workers,abusive contractors,and the pri-Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 53


Migration and Immigrationvate and public landowners—includingthe U.S. Forest Service—who hired thecontractors and the crews. So we keptdigging, knowing this was not a storythat was going to fall into our laptops.And we became road warriors—chasingdown leads in small towns from theOlympic Peninsula in Washington toCalifornia’s San Joaquin Valley. We sleptin cheap hotels, worked out of a car,and didn’t see much of our families.Our Reporting JourneyBut our persistence paid off. On onetrip, when we heard that two Latinotree-planters had just died in a vanaccident on the Oregon coast, wejumped in our cars and began driving.By that afternoon we were 200 milesdown the road, talking to the familyof one of the victims. Within a week,Hector was photographing the youngman’s funeral in Mexico. We were creatingour own luck. The on-the-recordstories and the pictures were startingto come.On another Oregon trip, we met apinero named Santiago who had justretired after decades in the woods. Thelife of a Latino forest worker, he said,was a life of misery. Men were hurtoften. They drank water out of muddycreeks. They were shuttled to workin rickety, overcrowded vans—andnot paid for travel time. Like others,though, Santiago did not want tobe quoted by name. There might betrouble. Contractors were a roughbunch. But something about Santiagomade us look him up again.Not only were his stories more colorfuland detailed, but when we askedagain if he would speak for attribution,this time Santiago Calzada said yes.“Go ahead,” he said. “Use it. Maybe itwill help.”That experience taught us a criticallesson. Legwork is crucial. But persistencepays dividends. Some of our bestmaterial grew out of similar follow-upvisits with other workers. The moreyou see someone, the more they trustyou. Along the way, we were learningother lessons about what worked—andwhat didn’t. One thing that didn’t wasusing the Web. Pineros don’t have Webpages. They don’t blog. They are ghostworkers. You have to go find them.Some of our biggest breakthroughscame south of the border where wetracked down several former forestworkers; now that they’d returned totheir home countries, they were morethan happy to talk about work in theUnited States. No longer did they fearfor their jobs, and they were not exactlypleased about how they’d been treated.One day we sat in a dusty backyard incentral Mexico and listened to VicenteVera Martínez tell how he had to give acontractor the title to his car—just toget a job. The job was on the OuachitaNational Forest in Arkansas. It was likebeing a prisoner or a slave, Vera Martíneztold us. “The only thing missingwas the whip.”Actually, those weren’t exactly hiswords. Those were, “Solo les faltabaun latigo,” but Hector’s languageskills—born in Mexico and fluent inSpanish—gave us entry to this man’slife and those of many others whoworked in the shadows. Hector comesfrom a family of farm workers, andwhen he was young he worked in thefields and learned the value of hardwork. That background not only helpedus to earn the trust of the pineros, butalso helped to convince many of themto let Hector take their photographs touse in the newspaper.After our reporting trip to Mexicoand Guatemala, and after gatheringmountains of additional informationthrough Freedom of Information Actrequests and interviewing other pinerosin the United States, we knew wehad almost enough material to pull aproject together. Just one thing eludedus: a day in the field with a special kindof pinero—those who labor legally inthe United States as guest workers.By law, such workers can toil for oneemployer, making them more vulnerableto exploitation and retaliation forspeaking out.We arranged to meet a crew in Idaho,but just hours before we arrived someonegot nervous. The crew split. Hectorwas furious—ready to climb walls. Itwas looking like another wasted trip.But this time the problem proved tobe an opportunity, thanks to some oldfashionedreporting. Ducking into aphone booth in a tiny mountain town,I began making call after call until Ifinally reached a source I had spokento months earlier who asked if we wereanywhere near Darby, Montana. A crewof guest workers was in the area. Darbywas 60 miles away. We were there in40 minutes. That afternoon, we foundthe guest workers. The next day, wemet more.Unlike the men that fled, these guyswere happy to see us. They were hungry.Payroll deductions were whittlingaway their wages. And the work, theysaid, was dangerous—way too dangerous.To our surprise, they invited usout to the job site on the BitterrootNational Forest where they were thinningtrees. The contractor who hadhired them was back in Idaho, so thatwould not be a problem. With only afew weeks left in the season, they saidwe could use their names and take theirpictures. After all, they would be backin Mexico and Central America by thetime our stories were published—andmost did not plan to return to workfor the contractor.No sooner did we arrive than oneworker was hurt—gashed below theeye by a falling tree. As a crew leaderdrove him to a hospital, 40 miles away,we searched the van for a first-aid kit.There was none. The next day, anotherworker was so famished, he dangleda hook in a pond behind a gas stationand caught a small trout. His friendhelped him eat it—bones and all.Once again, we had manufacturedour own luck—through hard work,preparation (never throw away a phonenumber since you never know whenyou might need it) and somethingmore intangible: chemistry. Hector andI worked well together. At the start ofthe project, we barely knew each other.Near the finish, after all the miles,motels and meals on the run, we werepartners. I made sure Hector got all thetime he needed for photographs. Andhe never lost interest in the reportingside. Hector’s contribution was so significant,in fact, that he shared a bylineon the project—and this was unprecedentedat The Sacramento Bee.The three-day series “The Pineros:54 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyMen of the Pines,” published in November2005, was filled with workers’accounts—all but one for attribution.In that case, though we did not identifythe worker, we corroborated hisstory through public records and othersources. By the time the newspaperstories were being written, we hadmore material than we had the spaceto tell them. And even though almostall of the information we’d gatheredearly from workers who’d requestedanonymity remained unused, the experiencesthey talked with us aboutwere invaluable in motivating us torange more widely in our reporting,and they served as signposts to suggestwhere the trail might lead.The series was particularly dramaticon the Web—with galleries of photographsthat had not appeared in print. 1Actual U.S. Forest Service documentscould be read there, and we offeredaudio snippets from the interviewswe’d done with the workers that wehad recorded in digital format in thefield.Days after the series was published,U.S. Forest Service announced majorreforms to its contracting proceduresto eliminate the abuses we reported.In March 2006, a Senate subcommitteeheld a hearing out of which grewlegislation, now pending in Congress,to provide more substantial legal protectionfor guest workers. In April, theOverseas Press Club gave the project itsfirst-ever award for best Web coverageof international affairs.Still, we weren’t done. Wanting tokeep a focus on these issues, we wrote17 follow-up stories. This summer, wewere on the road again, pursuing anotherissue we’d heard about—pineroswho were fighting fires. Once again,we had no guarantee that we’d findthem.One day, rolling down Interstate 5and worried about our prospects withthis new story, I turned to Hector andsaid, “There’s something I’ve got totell you. There’s every possibility thistrip will turn up nothing.”Hector listened for a moment,leaned his head back and laughed.“That’s never happened to us, huh!”he said. Then he added: “Stuff is notjust going to happen. It’s not going toland in our lap.” ■Tom Knudson is a reporter at TheSacramento Bee, whose paper wona Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for PublicService Reporting for Knudson’swork on “The Sierra in Peril.” Theseries “The Pineros: Men of the Pines”received the Nieman Foundation’sTaylor Family Award for Fairness inNewspapers in 2006.1www.sacbee.com/pinerosPHOTO ESSAYThe Work of the UndocumentedBy Hector AmezcuaJust minutes after theyrolled out of bed andoff the motel floors at3 a.m., Central ValleyForestry workers got alittle extra sleep as theyrode for two hours to theTahoe National Forestfrom Oroville, California.None of the workers,including the driver,wore their seatbelts asrequired by state law. Forsome pineros the trip tothe forest has been deadlybecause of the earlyhours riding on windingforest roads. June2005. Photo and captionby Hector Amezcua/TheSacramento Bee.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 55


Migration and ImmigrationEliseo Domínguez, a sevenyearveteran on U.S. forestlands, begins to bleed fromhis cheek after suffering a cutthat required five stitches.“I’m alright, I can continueworking,” said Domínguezafter he injured himself andfinished taking down thetree. Foreman Manuel Burac,unable to administer firstaid, thought differently anddispatched Domínguez to thehospital. The lack of propersafety equipment continuesto cause injuries to workers inAmerica’s forests. September2005.It was like being a prisoner or a slave, Vera MartínezFaraway from his wife and children in Mexico,Mauricio Ontiveros used a kitchen drawer to eatdinner in a motel room he stayed in with his forestrycoworkers who shared the cooking and cost offood. June 2005.Hector Amezcua, who was born in Mexico City, has been workingas a photojournalist for The Sacramento Bee since 1997.Photos and captions by Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee.Modesto Alvarez, 34, of Honduras, quenched his thirst at asnowmelt creek in the Tahoe National Forest after he finishedplanting seedlings. For Alvarez, and the many pineros workingin America’s forests, drinking from creeks is not uncommon,but the results can sometimes lead to dangerous cases of giardiasis,an intestinal infection that has cost some workers theirjobs. June 2005.56 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyMacario Martín Ordoñez, 70,covers his face as he visits thegrave of his son Alberto MartínCalmo, in Todos Santos, Guatemala.Alberto Martín was oneof five people killed in March2004 while traveling in a vanin Washington on their way topick salal, a small shrub. Martín,who was raising three of hisson’s five children, had a cryptbuilt next to his son’s becausehe felt he was on his death bed.March 2005.told us. ‘The only thing missing was the whip.’Paulino Olivo, right, of Veracruz, Mexico, borrowed $1,000 toobtain an H-2B visa with Global Forestry so he could work inMontana’s Bitterroot National Forest. Olivo and other coworkerswho then went to work for Universal Forestry were making burnpiles. On his hip Olivo carried a mixture of water and oatmeal tohelp him stay strong on the steep terrain. September 2005.As the coffin of Juan Carlos Ríos is closed in the cemetery,his 13-year-old niece Martha Ríos holds her handsas if to keep it from closing. He was killed on an Oregonhighway just a few miles from his first $10-an-hour jobplanting trees. “He lived with us. He would do littlethings with us, play baseball. I’ll miss being with him,”she said. ■Photos and captions by Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 57


Migration and ImmigrationDiffused Voices Demand Different Coverage‘If the people aren’t demonstrating … reporters need to find them by going to theirhomes and businesses, asking their opinions to understand their views.’By Amy DriscollThink immigration and a handfulof American cities spring tomind—Los Angeles. New York.Chicago. And Miami. In any of thoseplaces, the story of immigration reformlikely would be one of shared beliefs,simmering anger, and a mobilized community—right?But the latest roundof immigration proposals, debated inhearings from Washington to Miami,has illuminated some key distinctionsthat set the South Florida city apart:splintered demographics, diverginggoals among ethnic groups, and a divisionbetween those who came legallyand those who did not.When it comes to immigration,Miami doesn’t speak in one voice, butin many. The region is built on ethnicgroups and subgroups, each with itsown set of passionately held ideals,each vying for space in the newspaperor exposure on TV. Politics change byneighborhood, from Little Havana toLittle Haiti to Weston-zuela (the newBroward County suburb of Westonnicknamed for its heavy populationof Venezuelans.)Even though Florida has an estimatedone million undocumentedworkers, many immigrant communitiesdon’t see this current struggle as theirown: Cubans have their wet-foot/dryfootpolicy. (Make it to land and a Cubanmigrant can pursue residency a yearlater; if found at sea, that same Cubanis sent home or to a third country.)Many Hondurans, Nicaraguans andSalvadorans have their own specialexception—with “temporary” statusas refugees from natural disasters. Haitianssee their fight in terms of securingtemporary residence and work permits.Each group follows its own agenda. Andwith the exception of many Cubans,who still hope to topple Fidel Castro,each sees its struggle for a place in theUnited States as the primary mission,critical to survival.The Fragmented StoryWhile this single-mindedness mightwork well in pursuit of narrow policychanges, the fragmentation of viewpointstends to diffuse reaction—andmedia coverage—in this debate. Thenumbers tell the story: In March, morethan a half-million demonstrators weresaid to have shown up in Los Angelesto support immigration reform. InChicago, as many as 300,000 people reportedlyturned out. And in Miami? Themost generous estimates of that city’sMay 1st demonstration put the numberat 10,000. Even though reporters, TVcrews, and radio commentators herehad geared up for a possible last-minutesurge in participation, predictions of arelatively low turnout came true.And so the story about immigrationon that day—and on others—was a differentone. Instead of one viewpoint,there were many. Instead of a singlegroup—Mexicans—driving the news,multiple groups demanded a presenceon the pages of the newspapers and ontelevision. South Florida reporters hadto tease out niche stories in an effortto represent the nuanced viewpointsof Colombians or Haitians or Guatemalans.Another illustration: On the dayof these demonstrations, about 5,000people gathered in the Orange Bowl,a mixed crowd of mostly Guatemalans,Hondurans and Nicaraguans, with afew Cubans as well. When Cuban musicblared over the loudspeakers—thesong was Guantanamera—a Peruvianman in attendance grumbled that thesong was a bad choice because “theCubans don’t support us.”Florida Immigrant Advocacy CenterExecutive Director Cheryl Little, withmore than two decades of work inthe field, says the fragmentation ofviewpoints is directly proportional tothe region’s diversity: “This is SouthFlorida—there are a dozen immigrationissues coming up every day. Andthey’re all different.”In other places, Spanish-language radiostations and talk-show hosts playedkey roles in promoting demonstrations.In South Florida, no such pushmaterialized. Most popular Spanishstations in the area hold conservativeviews, and though many agreed withthe general principles of immigrationreform, they didn’t overtly embrace thecause. And the date—May 1—didn’thelp, either. Many Cubans associatethat day with Castro’s Communist regime.As reporters covering the storynoted, some potential demonstratorswere fearful of being cast in a Communistlight; during the cold war era, theSoviet Union and its allies forced workersto attend May 1 rallies. To furtherwater down the South Florida reaction,most local and state officials supportimmigration reform but were tepid intheir response to the boycott. FloridaSenator Mel Martinez, a Cuban-bornRepublican, has been a driving forcebehind legalization efforts, but he stilldecried the May 1 demonstrations as“counterproductive.”Mexicans are the majority of undocumentedworkers in the United States.But in Miami-Dade County, peoplewho come from Mexico make up onlyfour percent of Hispanics, accordingto the annual census update in 2004.Cubans are still the largest Hispanicgroup in Miami-Dade, and they see theimmigration fight through their ownlens, focusing most of their attention on58 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeythe Cuban Adjustment Act that enablesthem to apply for a green card aftermore than a year in the country. Thatrankles many Haitians who feel thatthey, like Cubans, are fleeing a repressiveregime, yet they are turned awayif they try to enter the United Stateswithout papers. Bumper stickers onsome cars in Miami read: Equal treatmentfor Haitians. And even though atleast two Haitian groups supported thenational job strike (when immigrantswould stay home from work for a day),the fear of job loss led some to keeptheir support private.All of this adds up to Miami being aplace where people generally supportthe idea of immigration reform—therehas been no organized opposition—but they aren’t moved enough by theissues to march in the streets.For reporters, this means that coveringthe local angles of the immigrationreform debate continues to translateinto a lot of hard work. If the peoplearen’t demonstrating at the OrangeBowl, reporters need to find them bygoing to their homes and businesses,asking their opinions to understandtheir views. And when they are notpulling their children out of school toprotest against stronger border controland possible deportations or rallyingin front of the immigration building,reporters have to find out why.Told in bits and pieces, from oneside and then the other and then yetanother, the story unfolding in SouthFlorida does not usually warrant frontpage,banner headlines. Though thesemany stories might not be as eye-catchingas thousands of people chanting“si, se puede”—“yes, we can”—for thetelevision cameras, in some ways theyare even more valuable. After all, oneof the most basic responsibilities ofjournalists is to reflect the communityaround us in all its confusion and complexity,even when it doesn’t conformneatly to our expectations.“I always say covering immigrationin Miami is like peeling an onion,” saidMyriam Marquez, assistant city editorfor immigration at The Miami Herald.“The deeper you go, the more layersyou find.” ■Amy Driscoll, a 2003 Nieman Fellow,is a reporter with The Miami Herald.PHOTO ESSAYComing AshoreBy Nuri VallbonaMen on the beach cheer for a Cubanrafter trying to wade to shoreafter eluding a few Coast Guardboats. June 1999. Photo by NuriVallbona/The Miami Herald.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 59


Migration and ImmigrationPeople encourage Carlos Hernandez Cordoba, who left Cuba in aboat and is now racing to reach the shoreline at 88th Street and thebeach in Miami.Officers try to catch Cordoba and verifythat he is coming from Cuba.“Tranquilo, que ya llegaste!” (“Stay calm, youmade it.”) a bystander (right) says to Cordoba asthe officers restrain him. ■Nuri Vallbona, a 2001 Nieman Fellow, is a photojournalistwith The Miami Herald. These June 1999 photos by NuriVallbona/The Miami Herald.60 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Observing the Exodus of Immigrants‘What happens when a constantly replenishing immigrant group slows downdramatically or simply stops coming?’By Kevin CullenAbout the JourneySome 20 years ago, not long afterBruce Bolling became the firstblack president of the Boston CityCouncil, he used his office and powerto punish a political rival, maintaininga tradition that stretched back nearly acentury, when Irish ward bosses usedtheir clout to exact revenge againstanyone who challenged the machine.Not long after, I sidled up to Bollingduring a reception at the ParkmanHouse, the mayor’s official residence atthe top of Beacon Hill. “Jesus, Bruce,”I said, draping my arm around hisshoulder, “a brother finally becomespresident, and what’s the first thingyou do: whack somebody like you’rean Irish pol.”Bolling, betraying a hint of a smile,cocked his head toward me and replied,“Kevin, in this town, we’re all Irish byosmosis.”No truer words were ever spoken,certainly in the Parkman House. Likeall great American cities, Boston is acity of immigrants. But no ethnic grouphas had a bigger impact on Bostonover the last century and a half thanthe Irish.Ireland’s potato blight in the late1840’s killed one million people andsent two million others scurrying forthe immigrant ships that would takethem away to a new land, especially toplaces such as Boston. In one generation,Boston was transformed from anoverwhelmingly Protestant city wheremost of the inhabitants traced theirancestry to England, to an overwhelminglyRoman Catholic city where mosthad roots in Ireland.During the next 150 years, the Irishwould come to dominate Boston, firstits politics, then its commerce, like noother ethnic group, putting their stampon a place that is universally regardedas the most Irish city in America. Eventoday, census figures show that nearly athird of the people who live in Bostonand its suburbs are of Irish ancestry, byfar the biggest percentage of any metropolitanarea in the United States.But like all things familiar andplentiful, the Boston Irish are takenfor granted. One day, as we sat aroundhis office kicking around ideas, I casuallymentioned to Mark Morrow, theprojects editor at The Boston Globe,that things had gotten so tough forimmigrants that even the Irish weregoing home.Morrow sat up in his chair. “Really?”he asked.Well, this was just something I washearing in the ubiquitous Irish pubs ofBoston, down at the fields in Cantonwhere Gaelic games are played, andfrom the myriad Irish people who Italk to regularly in covering Ireland,north and south. But at the Globe wehad been trying to figure out a way toapproach the immigration story, whichis really a story about Mexicans, whichis really a story about the impact onthe economy and social services ofthe border states, which is really anational and international story. Butas Tip O’Neill, that great Cantabrigianand former speaker of the House ofRepresentatives, put it, all politics islocal, and so is all journalism.In a reversal of the city’s immigranthistory, the Irish are going back toIreland and fewer are replacing them.Ireland’s booming economy, the mostrobust in Europe for more than adecade, has transformed what wasWestern Europe’s poorest country intoits richest in just a generation. Manyof the young Irish who had to leavehome to find work no longer haveto. But even those who hail from themore rural parts of Ireland where thestoried Celtic Tiger economy has notroared have found Boston less hospitablethan it was for their parents’ andgrandparents’ generation.Especially since 9/11, it has beenmuch harder for the young Irish tocome here and stay longer than allowedby a visitor’s visa and search for work.Those who manage to stay here withoutthe proper documentation have foundit virtually impossible since 9/11 to getthe Social Security numbers they needto get a driver’s license. That meansthat some of the jobs Irish immigrantshave traditionally done, such as childand elder care, are going to others.The house painting business in theBoston area, once dominated by theIrish, is increasingly the domain ofBrazilians.In Boston, the Irish used to getthe benefit of the doubt, especiallycompared with other undocumentedimmigrants. Before 9/11, if an Irishkid, his arms and clothes splashed withpaint, ran a red light or had a punch-upin a pub, he’d get a lecture, or maybeeven a cuff in the back of the head,from a Boston cop, who more oftenthan not resembled his uncle. Now,they get deported.What we are now exploring is whatthis demographic change means in acity and a region where the Irish havecast the longest shadow, influencing theway politics, business and religion getdone like no other group. What happenswhen a constantly replenishingimmigrant group slows down dramaticallyor simply stops coming? Couldit be, from a cultural standpoint, likeremoving a species from an ecosystem,altering it forever?The Irish experience also puts theplight of other immigrant groups inNieman Reports / Fall 2006 61


Migration and Immigrationsharper focus. If it’s this bad for theIrish—white, English speakers whohave a well-established communityhere, who have a long history of assimilation—whatmust it be like fornon-English speaking immigrants ofcolor who have far less clout and comefrom cultures where assimilation ismuch harder?Morrow told me to go out and talk topeople and to report back. “I’m goingto have to spend a lot of time in pubs,”I warned him. “On company time.”Morrow rolled his eyes and crossedhis arms. “Do what you have to do,” hesighed. And people wonder why thisis such a great job?But stereotypes aside, I found myselfas often in coffee shops, in churchhalls, at kitchen tables. I went to NewYork to contrast what was going onin that storied Irish community withBoston. I traveled to Ireland, wherepeople who had comfortable livesin America had returned, reluctantly,some of whom were legally entitledto stay in the United States but weredeeply disturbed by what they saw asan increasingly hostile environment forimmigrants in a nation that bills itselfas a nation of immigrants.The anecdotal evidence for this societaland cultural shift was compelling,but the absence of empirical evidencewas frustrating. The Irish governmenthas no data to show how many Irishcitizens have returned from the UnitedStates, whether legal or not. Documentingthis trend was sort of like JusticePotter Stewart’s definition of obscenity:I’d know it when I saw it. (Duringmy Nieman year, I took Larry Tribe’sconstitutional law class in which heconfided that when he was clerking forStewart he’d asked him if he’d ever reallyseen it: Yes, Stewart replied, once,when he was in the U.S. Navy. Stewartleft it at that.)The inability of the Irish, like otherimmigrant groups, to make themselveslegal residents has created a lotof heartache and Hobson’s choices.Young people talk of being unable toreturn to Ireland to visit sick or dyingrelatives, to attend births or weddingsor funerals. Most often, their familiestell them to stay put. Reverend JohnMcCarthy, a priest from Limerick,holds memorial Masses for the deadat St. Columbkille’s in Brighton,and St. Mark’s in Dorchester, and St.Ann’s in Quincy. One night, I sat in St.Columbkille’s with young Irish peoplemourning a friend who returned hometo Donegal, only to commit suicide.They were beside themselves withanguish and guilt that they could notreturn home to pay their respects totheir friend and to his family.It reminded me of the stories myGalway-born grandmother, BrigidFlaherty, used to tell me when I was aboy, of how the Irish who stayed behindlonged for those who made the trip toBoston, a place the Irish called “thenext parish over.” My grandmother’smother remained in the squalor ofCarraroe, the impoverished village mygrandmother walked away from whenshe was a teenager to work as a chambermaidon Beacon Hill, scrubbingfloors not far from the house wherecouncil president Bruce Bolling toldme that everyone in Boston was Irish byosmosis. My great-grandmother used tocry herself to sleep in Carraroe, piningfor her daughter in Boston.Carraroe, a barren, moon-like landscapethat shed most of its people inthe generations after the potato blight,is now a favored vacation spot of richDubliners, who have in the last generationbuilt sprawling second homes onthe peat bogs where my grandparentsand their neighbors lived in stonehovels. The locals have dubbed thissudden, ostentatious manifestation ofIrish wealth “bungalow blitz.”In the 19th century, the people in thewest of Ireland held “wakes” for thosetaking the boat to Boston, drink-fuelledcelebrations sobered by the knowledgeit was most likely the last time everyonewould see the person sailing forAmerica. Now, in the working-classpubs of Dorchester and Quincy, theybid farewell to those moving back toIreland, probably for good.In Ireland, it was long said that therewas no future, only history repeatingitself. In Boston, history is reversingitself. ■Kevin Cullen, a 2003 Nieman Fellow,is a projects reporter for The BostonGlobe and the Globe’s former Dublinbureau chief.The War of Words‘The acrimony of the immigration debate testifies to the power of words to divide andought to serve as a cautionary signal to journalists ….’By Kate PhillipsWith every step in the battleover immigration reform,opposing sides are usingcarefully chosen language as a powerfulweapon. Listen to words used byanti-immigrant groups and House ofRepresentatives Republicans, whosepassage of an enforcement-only billlast December galvanized immigrantcommunities: Aliens. Illegals. No Amnesty.Border Security First. AmericaNeeds a Fence. The Kennedy Bill. Orhear the words chosen by advocatesof citizenship, whose street rallies inmajor cities this spring startled theiropponents into action: Undocumentedworkers. A path to citizenship. Guestworker programs. Comprehensive im-62 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeymigration reform. Even President Bush,who supports a temporary workerprogram while straddling the rifts inhis own Republican Party, has referredto these immigrants as undocumentedpeople who work in the shadows.As positions have hardened over thesummer, with a backlash by anti-immigrantgroups swelling, these words,repeated again and again, then echoedon talk-radio shows, on television,and in the chambers of the Houseand Senate, have shaped not only thelegislative debate but have heightenedthe image of a deep and expandingdivide in this country. Today it seemsas though a nation built proudly on itsmelting-pot embrace of immigrants hasdissolved now into enclaves of angerand distrust.The acrimony of the immigrationdebate testifies to the power of words todivide and ought to serve as a cautionarysignal to journalists: What languageis used in stories and headlines—andhow it is used—matters. And whenreporters and editors don’t pay attentionto the descriptive words they usein coverage of this debate, they tend,however subconsciously, to exploitthe debate rather than amplify varyingpositions.An estimated 12 million people aresaid to reside or work in the UnitedStates without the required papers tobe here. Some have overstayed their visas;others—millions most likely—havecrossed the borders illegally to findemployment. House Republicans wantto strengthen enforcement along theborder states of Texas, Arizona, NewMexico, and California and make it afelony to reside here illegally. In theSenate, an effort to compromise byArizona’s Senator John McCain, a Republican,and Senator Ted Kennedy, aMassachusetts Democrat, would allowcertain people who have been here forseveral years to apply for citizenship.Known as a “guest worker” program,this proposal has stiffened opposition,as the word “guest” has taken on a lifeof its own.“A ‘guest’ is someone I’ve invited intomy home,” William Greene, presidentof RightMarch.com, a conservativeonline group, said this summer. “Legislatorssuch as Kennedy, McCain andothers are proposing to change thedefinition of ‘guest’ to ‘anyone whoenters illegally.’ Well, the Americanpeople aren’t that stupid.” To HouseRepublicans, who have repeatedlytaken to the floor to push for tougherimmigration laws, any “guest worker”program amounts to “amnesty.” “TheSenate bill wants to base our nationalsecurity on get-out-of-jail free cards,”said Representative Patrick McHenry,Republican of North Carolina.Many Republicans are fitting theimmigration debate neatly into theframework of the administration’s waron terrorism. They cite recent hearingsat which law enforcement authoritiesdescribed some border-crossers asdrug-traffickers aligned with terroristnetworks. In an election year, thistranslates into “border security,” atheme that pollsters and analysts arecrafting as a bellwether issue becauseit piques passion among some voters.In the recent contest to replace formerRepresentative Randy Cunninghamin California, whose conviction oncharges of corruption forced him toresign, Republican Brian P. Bilbrayheld back his Democratic opponent’smessage about a corrupt RepublicanledCongress by focusing on anti-immigrantsentiments in his district onthe Mexican border. And more broadly,Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, hascounseled Republicans to emphasize“border security” and to use the terms“illegal aliens” as a way to frame theissue for voters.To linguists, word choice is no accident.Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist atthe University of California, Berkeleyand author of “Talking Right: How ConservativesTurned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating,Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading,Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving,Left-Wing Freak Show,” pointed meto a piece he did for NPR last spring. 1[See a review of this book on page 85.]In it, he traced the use of the words“illegals” and “aliens.” The use of illegals,as a noun, he said, dated backto the 1930’s when it was used by theBritish to refer to Jews who enteredPalestine without official permission.“It has been used ever since as a wayof reducing individuals to their infractions,”he said.In today’s parlance, he continued,“it’s revealing that alien is far morelikely to be used to describe Mexicansand Central Americans than Europeans.The tens of thousands of Irish andPoles who are in the country illegallyare almost always referred to as ‘immigrants,’not ‘aliens.’“And anti-immigrationists almostnever use aliens to describe foreignerswho are in the country legally—on newsbroadcasts, ‘illegal aliens’ outnumbers‘legal aliens’ by about 100 to 1,” hesaid. “Whatever its legal meaning, whenit comes to the crunch, alien means‘brown people who snuck in.’”Journalists RespondThat was precisely one of the imagesthat prompted journalism organizationsto sound alerts about the languagebeing bandied about as the debateheated up last spring. The NationalAssociation of Hispanic Journalists(NAHJ) and the National Associationof Black Journalists (NABJ) issued cautions,requesting that journalists avoidthe terms “illegals,” “illegal aliens,” or“aliens.” NAHJ said using “illegals” asa noun criminalized people, not theiractions. For similar reasons, NAHJadvised journalists to avoid “illegalimmigrant,” preferring instead theterm undocumented worker or undocumentedimmigrant. NABJ went astep further, suggesting that journalistscould also use what it considereda neutral term—“economic refugee.”But that term carries legal baggage ofits own, given that many Haitian immigrantswere considered to be economicrefugees, not political refugees, in the1980’s and early ’90’s and were deniedasylum on those grounds.1www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5340507Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 63


Migration and ImmigrationWhile some commentators, likeLou Dobbs on CNN, who has madetough immigration laws a crusade inrecent months, readily pepper theirchatter with the terms “illegals” and“aliens,” several news organizationshave reviewed, or revised, their stylebooks.The Minneapolis Star-Tribuneannounced earlier this summer that itwas revising its stylebook so that “undocumented”worker could be usedin some situations. And it cautionedagainst the use of the word “illegal” asan adjective before immigrant, sincea person’s legal status is frequentlynot known.At The New York Times, where Iwork, we were reminded earlier thisyear of style rules on immigrationlanguage. Phil Corbett, a deputy newseditor, conceded that trying to use neutral,factual language was a “particularlytricky feat in such a politically chargedcontext.” Citing Times’ style thathasn’t changed since it was updatedin 1999, he noted several entries forsuch hot-button words. Here is whatour stylebook says about the use of“alien:” “As a term for a foreigner orimmigrant, while technically correct, itoften conveys overtones of menace orstrangeness. Resist its use except whenunavoidable in a headline, or whenquoting others. The preferred term forthose who enter a country in violationof the law is illegal immigrants.”Asked why the Times discouragesthe term “undocumented worker” or“undocumented immigrant,” Corbettexplained that there’s no real disputethat “the people in question are in thiscountry illegally, so ‘illegal immigrant’is simply a factual description. Undocumentedis a jargony and bureaucraticword whose only real purpose in thiscontext is to serve as a euphemism.Using it would clearly signal to readersthat we are going out of our wayto avoid saying ‘illegal’ and so wouldseem like taking sides.”The Associated Press and manynewspapers also discourage the use of“illegal alien.” Still, despite the lingeringnotion of an alien as someone whodescended from Mars, many newspaperscontinue to allow use of the wordin tight headline counts. Corbett alsonoted that reporters should be vigilantwhen quoting sources who describethe worker program proposal as “amnesty”and make an effort to explainthat such avenues to citizenship arenot blanket amnesty.Whether journalists’ use of careful,neutral language could alter thedebate in any way remains dubious.While it might shield news organizationsfrom charges of bias, it certainlyhas not stopped forces on either sidefrom redesigning their messages. Thelatest coinage of immigration termsfrom the political corridors of CapitolHill is an effort by House Republicansto tarnish the Senate’s bipartisan bills,first drafted by McCain-Kennedy andthen in compromise form by RepublicanSenators Mel Martinez of Floridaand Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Staunchopponents of guest worker programs,like Congressman James Sensenbrenner,Jr., the powerful chairman ofthe House Judiciary Committee, havetaken to calling the Senate’s proposal“the Kennedy bill,” an apparent attemptto brush the bill with Kennedy’sultraliberalism. The switch hasn’t goneunnoticed—either by journalists orpoliticians—and indeed has providedhumorous asides to what has becomea bitter partisan dispute that mightnot be resolved before the midtermelections in November.Asked recently what he thought ofthe label repeatedly uttered by his fellowRepublicans, one that strips him ofauthorship, Senator McCain shruggedand said, “You can call it a banana ifyou want to.”“I’m not a banana,” Senator Kennedyprotested, to laughter all around. ■Kate Phillips, a 2003 Nieman Fellow,is political editor for nytimes.com,after several years as an editor in theWashington, D.C. bureau and in NewYork.Don’t ‘Brown’ the HispanicsA sociologist proposes a new way for journalists to handle the confusing task of usingracial and ethnic identifications in news coverage.By Amitai EtzioniConsider the following headline:“Reading scores of blacks andHispanics improve: Scores ofwhites show little change.” Like manysuch news reports, this one is not onlymisleading, but also it’s wrong becauseit does not account for the fact thatroughly half of Hispanics in the UnitedStates are white.In the minds of millions of Americans,this kind of all-too-commonwording shrinks the proportion ofAmericans who are white and inflatesthe proportion of people who aren’t.Yet there is not an easy way to avoidthis error, because most informationavailable about Hispanics does notallow reporters to distinguish whiteHispanics from others. Worse, theinformation there often transformsHispanics into members of a distinctrace; they become “brown” Americans.Various news media have approachedthis challenge in different ways, buteach strategy comes with some surprisingsociological implications.In typical government reports, as64 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeywell as other data-driven publications,information about racial and ethnicdifferences is published in two basicforms. One uses merely racial categories(such as black, white, Asian andso on). This practice makes Hispanicsvanish, as they are incorporated intovarious racial categories,including the particularlyuninformative one of “someother race.” Data are alsoreleased in ways that compareHispanics to variousracial groups, but this is likecomparing apples, oranges,pears and—cars, since racialcategories and ethic groupsare very different sociologicalcreatures. As one observerputs it, “From a social scienceviewpoint, this [kind of comparison]makes no sense at all; but this is theway it has been established, this is theway it is done.” Most responsible dataproviders do add a footnote stating that“Persons of Hispanic origin may be ofany race,” but this is about as helpful assaying, “Note: We just made meaningfulcomparisons impossible.”Race in the United States is largelyin the eyes of the beholder. People arenot boxed in according to their bloodor any other physiological traits (which,by the way, would blur the racial linesin a jiffy)—but according to what theyclaim they are. When the U.S. CensusBureau reports that a given percentageof Americans are black or white,it basically relies on what Americansthemselves mark on census forms.(Fearful that some blacks might identifythemselves as white, which would resultin smaller government allotmentsto boost affirmative action and lessfunding targeted toward minorities, theNAACP urged people with one whiteparent and one black parent to checkonly the black category during the 2000census.) When those who identifiedthemselves as Hispanic were askedduring that census to what race theybelong, 48 percent responded white,two percent selected black, 42 percentchose “some other race” (some analysesshow that many of these wrote inHispanic or Latino as an “other race”)and six percent checked more thanone race.Differing responses among Hispanicsbedevil comparisons with variousThere is an admittedly maverick way forjournalists to deal with this identity dilemma.Drop racial categories all together anduse instead the much less divisive ethniccategories based on country of origin.racial groups. When attempts are madeto compare aspects of Hispanics’ lifecircumstances to those of whites, thosewho make such comparisons usuallydisregard the fact that about half ofHispanics are, in fact, white. And thosewho make such comparisons do notbegin to know how to handle the racecalled “other.” But perhaps the biggestfaux pas is that Hispanics are not a race,and this renders all such comparisonsdubious from the start.Why Words MatterJournalists deal with this challengein a variety of ways. Some reporterswrite about differences in behaviorand attitudes in terms of non-Hispanicwhites, Hispanics and blacks. For instance,from The Washington Post (June2005) comes the phrase, “Hispanicsare younger and poorer on averagethan non-Hispanic whites,” and froma February story in The (Cleveland)Plain Dealer, “Hispanics are twice aslikely as non-Hispanic whites to fallprey to scams….” Such wording hasthe merit of reminding the reader thatsome Hispanics are white, but learningthat merely serves to remind us thatsuch comparisons make little sensefor reasons already cited. It is alsoan awkward term that most headlinewriters and many reporters avoid, accordingto a survey of such usage thatI conducted in 2005. 1It is much more common for journaliststo implicitly refer to Hispanicsas if they are members of a distinctrace. This occurs when newsstories place next to oneanother blacks, whites andHispanics (or blacks, whites,Asians and Hispanics). Thiserror seems particularlyprevalent in coverage of theeducation achievement gap,as happened in a December2005 article in The HartfordCourant when the followingsentence appeared: “Theproposal is especially relevantto the district’s goal of closing theachievement gap among white, black,Hispanic and Asian students.” Otherexamples include:• In July 2005, Fox News reported that“Achievement gaps between whiteand black and Hispanic studentsremain.”• The New York Times used such acomparison in a March 2006 storyabout racial differences in computerusage: “The Internet was bypassingblacks and some Hispanics as whitesand Asian Americans were rapidlyincreasing their use of it.”• In a story the St. Louis Post-Dispatchpublished in January 2006, similarinaccurate wording appeared: “Thesame number of African Americans,Hispanics and Asians are opposedto abortion as whites.”• A March 2006 article in The Economistread: “The obvious correlationis with economic status: Whites andAsians are at the top of the heapwhile Latinos and blacks struggleat the bottom.”This all-too-common formulationtends to make readers think they aredealing with racial comparisons, but actuallyreferences such as these involve1This survey was done with the use of Google, enabling the author to look at the first 100mentions of Hispanics in news stories to determine how they were characterized. This methodwas repeated and the breakdowns reported in this article were found to be essentially the same.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 65


Migration and Immigrationtwo or more racial groups and—anethnic one.When Hispanics are explicitlytreated as if they are a racial group,no room for doubt in readers’ mindsis left, as can be seen in the followingarticle excerpts.• “To ease racial tensions, black prisonershad been separated fromLatinos. Inmates of both racescomplained that they had not beenallowed to shower, phone home, orput on clean clothes,” from the LosAngeles Times, February 2006.• “Hispanic students were less likelythan those from any other racialgroup to even take the SAT,” fromThe New York Times, March 2006.• “Blacks, Hispanics and other racialminorities accounted for more than80 percent of population growth,”from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,March 2006.Sometimes the news media go astep further and refer to a “race” rarelymentioned—brown Americans.• “Growing Up Brown in a BorderTown” was the headline of a storyon National Public Radio’s show “AllThings Considered” in May 2006.• “Vaca appeared at California StateUniversity, Sacramento, earlier thismonth to discuss black-brown tensions,”wrote The Sacramento Beein April 2006.• “Certainly, not all Mexicans seeMemin as a goodhearted black kidwhose ready wit and quick thinkingget his brown and white schoolmatesout of jams,” wrote The Dallas MorningNews in July 2005.• The American Editor, published bythe American Society of NewspaperEditors, advised in December 2005that reporters “must now cover thefuture work force that will have amajority of black and brown faces—many of whom are less educatedthan the white workers they willreplace.”These examples indicate that manynews organizations do not appear tohave explicit editorial policies concerninghow and when to properly use theterm “Hispanic.” In my informal surveyof articles, I found that the same publication,for example, used the termdifferently. At times, Hispanic appearsas a race; sometimes it’s an ethnicity.For example, on February 10, 2005 theLos Angeles Times referred to Latinoas a racial category in its descriptionof the Michael Jackson jury: “The majorityof the potential panelists werewhite, with about a third Latino and ahalf-dozen African Americans—roughlyin line with the area’s racial makeup.”Yet on May 29, 2005, that newspaperran a headline that referred to Latinoas an ethnic group: “Latino Bloc HasFar to Go; For myriad reasons, L.A.’slargest ethnic group hasn’t harnessedits full political power.” When editorsthere were queried about their policy,they chose not to respond.When there is a policy, it seems notto be enforced. For example, reporterswith The Associated Press (AP)have not followed the dictates of the2005 edition of “The Associated PressStylebook” to treat Hispanics as anethnic, not a racial, group. In February2005, one AP national writer wrote,“Last year, telecommunications giantVerizon used a fictional interracialfamily—white and Hispanic—in sevencommercials pushing their communicationsproducts” Another AP story in2005 contained these words: “Amongthe racial groups, most gaps in readingand math scores showed some narrowing.Black and Hispanic students scoredhigher in reading than in the 1970’s,with 9-year-olds in both groups postingtheir best scores yet.” Describinga jury pool in Milwaukee, a third APreporter wrote in April 2006, “Racesof people in the pool are 70 percentwhite; 19 percent black; 7.5 percentHispanic; 3 percent Asian, and 0.5percent American Indian.”Using Different IdentitiesThere is good reason to sort this matterout. To characterize a group of peopleas a distinct race—and for them andothers to start to regard themselves inthis way—is to create a divide wherethere was once only a space. Race isa place you cannot leave, nor yourchildren, nor theirs. Ethnic lines aremuted and apt to blur in future generations.For those identified as beingnonwhite in North America, they belongto a minority with a keen senseof separateness, if not discriminationand victimization often associated withsuch a label. In contrast, as membersof an ethnic group, typically they feelthat they are as American as apple pie,even if they prefer flan. After all, everyAmerican is a member of one ethnicgroup or another, so to draw racial lineswhere none exists is to divide Americanseven more, which is detrimentalto societal well-being.Moreover, viewing Hispanics asmembers of a distinct race tends todetract attention from what is oneof the most significant sociologicalchanges in American society—thedecline in the importance of race. Formany decades, American society wasdivided into black and white, termsreflecting a shameful era in our nation’shistory. Racial conflicts and tensionshave subsided in recent decades, buthave far from disappeared. Like otherminority groups, some Hispanics feeldiscriminated against, but as a groupthey do not share the same sense ofalienation that many African Americansdid and do. And as they become moresocially and politically active, Hispanicsare destined to soften lines that divideAmericans—unless they are raciallyidentified, unless they are browned.There is an admittedly maverick wayfor journalists to deal with this identitydilemma. Drop racial categories alltogether and use instead the muchless divisive ethnic categories basedon country of origin. Terms such asEuropean American, African American,Hispanic American (for thosewho come from South of the border)and Asian American (including thosefrom Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia whoare now categorized as white). Onemight wonder what term ought to beused to refer to Australian Americans,New Zealand Americans, and the morenumerous Canadian Americans. Itwould be a stretch to lump them withEuropean Americans, although thisapproach might suffice.66 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyFor more detailed purposes, theuse of regional terms such as SoutheastAsian Americans, Middle EasternAmericans, and Caribbean Americansmight work. If more detail is needed,follow the long-established practiceof referring to Polish Americans, IrishAmericans, Mexican Americans, CubanAmericans, Haitian Americans, IraqiAmericans, and so on. Categorizingpeople in this way would recognizethe empirical fact that countries oforigin and ethnicity are often muchmore meaningful than “race.” Thusthe differences between CambodianAmericans and Vietnamese Americanson the one hand and JapaneseAmericans and Korean Americans onthe other are substantially higher thanthe differences between these ‘yellow’Americans and some white groups.And the differences between CubanAmericans and Mexican Americans arelarger on many dimensions than thedifferences between Cuban Americansand, for example, West Indian Americans.Thus, instead of turning an ethnicgroup into a race, we’d think aboutraces as if they were nothing more thanethnic groups.By focusing on country of origin andusing terms such as Mexican Americanor Japanese American, journalists couldplay an important role in remindingall Americans that while our forebearsarrived in different boats, we now sailon the same ship. Identifications ofthis sort would stress that differencesamong us, although far from trivial,are transitional. We are not differenttribes that happen to reside next toone another on one piece of land, butone people. ■Amitai Etzioni teaches sociology atThe George Washington University.He served as president of the AmericanSociological Association and isthe author, among other books, of“The Monochrome Society,” publishedby Princeton University Press in2001.Data Talk When Reporters Know How to Listen‘My god, I had no idea newspapers could do this kind of thing!’By Stephen K. DoigFor a journalist looking for a greatcontinuing story, immigration isthe gift that just keeps on giving.Demographic change, with immigrationas the engine that powers it moststrongly, is a subtext in virtually everybeat covered: education, crime, taxes,economy, politics, growth, culture,religion, jobs, transportation and somuch more.I spent most of my 23-year newsroomcareer in what arguably is thenation’s major immigration and demographicspressure-cooker—SouthFlorida. And 10 years ago I moved toArizona, which has become the newestfrontline of the immigration story.Based on my experience and my longfascination with data in general and demographicsin particular, I can promisethat learning a bit about data-gatheringand number-crunching will pay off inwonderful stories.When I arrived in Florida in the mid-1970’s, Miami still was known to thelarger country as both a sun-and-funplay land and a place where your elderlyrelatives, particularly if they were Jewishfrom the Northeast, went to retire.But longtime residents were mutteringthen about the changes they sawhappening: different languages heardon the streets, problems with crime,traffic jams, a boom in housing construction,draining of the Everglades,overwhelmed schools, overburdenedemergency rooms—the whole litanyof symptoms of rapid demographicchange.Change, indeed, was happening at atorrid pace. The median age of MiamiBeach residents in 1980 was 65 yearsold, reflecting the city’s abundanceof small condos, retirement hotels,ethnic delis, and early-bird restaurantspecials. By 1990, however, the medianage had plummeted an astonishingtwo decades, to 45. And by the timeof the 2000 census, the median agehad fallen further to just 39 years old.This is a city that in just 20 years had toevolve from providing nursing homesand eldercare centers for its residentsto opening elementary schools andchild-care centers. This is a city thatin the all-white 1960’s had ordinancesrequiring African-American maids tobe gone by dusk, but by the 1990’shad a population that was majorityHispanic.Demographic change has been thenorm in South Florida since the firstgreat post-war immigration wave to hitthe United States, the flood of Cubanexiles who came to Miami after FidelCastro took power in 1959. Then therewas the so-called Mariel boatlift of1980, when more than 100,000 newrefugees arrived virtually overnight tobe housed in tent cities beneath theoverpasses. The easing of racial segregationdriven by civil rights reformsallowed thousands of middle-classblacks to move to the suburbs but leftbehind the poorest of the poor in whatbecame festering economic ghettos.Turmoil in Latin America later shiftedthe primary fount of immigration fromCuba to Nicaragua and other CentralAmerican countries. Tens of thousandsof Haitians left their dirt-poor islandseeking a better life in Miami. Then HurricaneAndrew remapped South Floridain 1992, the final straw for thousandsNieman Reports / Fall 2006 67


Migration and Immigrationof native-born whites who didn’t havethe bilingual skills to compete in thechanging job market. Today, barely 20percent of greater Miami’s populationis non-Hispanic whites.Immigration alarmists see all ofthis change as validation that theirraise-the-drawbridge demands arevital to “saving” the country. But asreporters, my colleagues and I at TheMiami Herald harvested an endlesssupply of fascinating stories from allthat was happening around us. In thestories of immigration—and relatedissues—could be found the good andthe bad, triumph and tragedy, selflessleadership and blatant corruption. Wewrote about “Miami Vice”-style shootoutsin the streets, penniless refugeeswho became civic dignitaries, nakedelection fraud, booming economicgrowth, schools that struggled to teachchildren in dozens of languages, internationalintrigue, neighborhoods intransition, and so much more.Data Drive CoverageA vital element of all this coverage wasour growing ability to find and analyzedata that let us quantify the changingdemographics that drove those stories.I was an early acolyte of PhilipMeyer, whose “Precision Journalism”in 1973 was the first call for reportersto use data and social science tools toinform our reporting on many issues.Because of computers and the increasingavailability of machine-readablegovernment data, reporters becameable to go beyond using only anecdotalevidence in stories and insteadcould give readers measurable proofof what is happening around them.For instance, just days after the firstbatch of 1990 census data was released,Knight Ridder colleagues Ted Mellnikand Dan Gillmor and I published ourstudy of how racial segregation hadchanged across the country since 1980.I still remember demographic expertWilliam Frey of the University of Michigan,when we called him for commentabout our findings, saying “My god, Ihad no idea newspapers could do thiskind of thing!”In our investigative reporting, weused all sorts of data for all sorts ofstories, big and small.• Census numbers, Immigration andNaturalization Service reports, jailhousecounts, hospital costs, schoolstatistics and much more were studied,and what they revealed directed,in many ways, the reporting for “Lostin America: Our Failed ImmigrationPolicy” by Lizette Alvarez and LisaGetter, winners of the GoldsmithPrize in 1995.• Storm damage reports and millionsof records about propertyassessments, building inspections,and campaign contributions wereanalyzed to create the foundationalstructure for the 1993 Pulitzer Prizewinning“What Went Wrong” afterHurricane Andrew.• Records of arrests, criminal courtproceedings, sentencing patterns,incarcerations and probation decisionsformed the core of “Crime andNo Punishment,” an InvestigativeReporters and Editors (IRE) awardwinnerin 1995.• Police reports were used for storieson murder patterns and gun crimes,water bill records to measure recoveryfrom the hurricane, propertytax information to map lead painthazards, land records and sales ofexotic cars to look at money laundering,pet license records for a funfeature on dog breeds and names,voter address records to find fraud incity politics, and precinct-level votereturns to measure how uncountedFlorida ballots had cost Al Gore the2000 presidential election.My primary professional interestsince becoming an academic in 1996has been helping journalists learn touse such techniques. When it comesto covering immigration—and theexpanding web of stories emanatingfrom this topic—data can be elusive,especially when the focus is on thosewho are here illegally—but it is alwaysessential to gather and study thenumbers before trying to tell the story,whether in the end the data providean invisible foundation to support theanecdotal experiences or they are integratedinto the storytelling so readerssee the supporting evidence.Here are a few ways to start usingthe computer and other resources tofind and evaluate data relevant to thisstory:Get to know the mother lode of UnitedStates demographic data by using theU.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact-Finder Web site. 1 Once census geographyand terminology is understood, thefact-finder site becomes a fast and datarichplace to explore the local impact ofimmigration on poverty, employment,housing and education.Inventory the data gathered by localagencies—hospitals, schools, police,transportation, public housing—thatare most likely to be involved withimmigration-generated changes. Simplyknowing what data they collectwill likely spark ideas for data-drivenstories.Look in economic data—and also belooking in the community—for earlysigns of arrival of immigrants. Thesesigns include the appearance of ethnicgrocery stores in neighborhoods andweekly ethnic newspapers or videostores specializing in foreign languagefilms. Such businesses emerge soonafter the arrival of a critical mass ofpotential customers and long beforearguments break out about Englishonlylegislation and voter identificationlaws and debates about fencingborders.Read some of the best reporting doneby journalists in other parts of thecountry as they’ve observed the localimpact of immigration. These articlescan be found through doing LexisNexissearches or by going to the onlineInvestigative Reporters and Editors ar-1http://factfinder.census.gov68 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeychives. 2 Another approach is to explorewhat’s been done by the winners andfinalists of major journalism prizes thatspecialize in reporting on social anddiversity issues, such as the Robert F.Kennedy Journalism Award 3 , or thosesponsored by the various minorityjournalists’ organizations.Stay aware that measuring immigrationand its effects is a notoriouslyill-defined problem. Government data,particularly that which purports tocount the undocumented, is worthyof much skepticism. So are the claimsof advocacy groups on either side ofthe issue; they will inflate or deflateheadcounts and economic claims tofit their arguments.Even in cities where the impact ofimmigration isn’t yet a dominant causeof societal change, chances are theseissues will be there soon; it’s definitelyhappening now in my new hometownof metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona.While the changes almost certainly willbe more gradual than the wrenchingdemographic upheavals that roiledMiami, they will be no less real andno less important to those living inthese communities. By learning howto use some simple tools, when thesestories emerge reporters will be readyto find and tell them comprehensivelyand credibly. ■Stephen K. Doig holds the KnightChair in Journalism at the WalterCronkite School of Journalism andMass Communications at ArizonaState University, where he specializesin computer-assisted reporting.He shared in the Goldsmith Prize forInvestigative Reporting for the 1994series, “Lost in America: Our FailedImmigration Policy.”2www.ire.org3www.rfkmemorial.org/legacyinaction/journalismawards/The Dangerous Numbers Game in ImmigrationCoverageA radio journalist talks about the effects of lazy reporting, ‘opinion journalism,’ andsome inherent difficulties in accurately telling this complicated story.By Ted Robbins“First thing to remember,” saidauthor and journalist CharlesBowden at dinner, “is that anynumber you hear about illegal immigrationis a lie.” His was a cynicalwarning issued to a group of journalistsgathered in his hometown of Tucson,Arizona for a seminar called “Coveringthe Border” sponsored by the Institutefor Justice in Journalism. But his perspectiveseemed a fair one, consideringthe uncritical way that some reportersabsorb, then simply repeat numbersthey are given by advocates of one sideor another, failing to do the necessaryleg work to try to either assure theiraccuracy or at least understand thebroader context of the issues that thefigures are aligned with.Hearing Bowden’s words made methink that though the numbers themselvesmight not be “lies,” they likelydon’t often well represent the “truth”when it comes to coverage of illegalimmigration issues.Just before attending this seminar,I’d aired a three-part series exploringthe identity of Phoenix, Arizona broadcaston NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Themiddle part of the series focused onthe effects of illegal immigration onthe city. In my reporting, I’d said theimmigration debate is “driven largelyby emotion, rather than data,” and verysoon I received about a dozen e-mailsaccusing me of biased reporting andignorance about available research.From one side of the political spectrumcame charges that I’d ignored studiesshowing how illegal immigrantswere responsible for escalating crimerates, along with a rise in public costsfor health care, social services, andschools. From the other side came accusationsthat I’d failed to use researchshowing how these workers contributedto the Social Security systemwhile the work they were doing keptthe economy afloat.Aware of much of this research, myreporting had convinced me that, atworst, these “findings” were generatedand used by agenda-driven organizationsor, at best, were based on assumptionsthat even the researchers admittedto me were “mushy.” After all, illegalimmigrants are also “undocumentedimmigrants” so, by definition, thispopulation is officially uncountable.More than a few of these illegals whomI’ve interviewed are uncomfortable answeringresearch-like questions—evenwhen asked anonymously.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 69


Migration and ImmigrationSifting Through the NumbersSo how does a reporter determine the“facts” in reporting such a story? Tostart with, it is imperative to investigatehow information about these peopleand the lives they lead in this countryis derived. It’s the question every reporterneeds to ask a source: “How doyou know?”Start with the most basic statistic:How many illegal immigrants are inthis country? One widely quoted sourceputs the number in the range of 10 to12 million, while another has it in therange of 20 million. The generally accepted—andmore widely used—numberis 12 million, and it comes fromJeffrey Passel at the Pew Hispanic Center.Passel is a former researcher withthe U.S. Census Bureau, which is stillwhere his data come from. To derivethis figure, he used what’s called the“residual method,” which means thathe took the total number of people whoanonymously identified themselves as“immigrants,” then subtracts the numberof legal immigrants—those whohave documents—and the residualnumber is those who are here illegally.But Passel’s calculations are based onold data (the 2000 census), which had10 million as the residual number. Toget his current figure, he estimated thattwo million more have arrived duringthe past six years.In 2004, investigative reportersDonald L. Barlett and James B. Steelereported in Time magazine that asmany as three million illegal immigrantsenter the country each year.In a telephone interview, Barlett toldme he believes the total number of illegalimmigrants is perhaps as high as20 million. He cited a study done bythe investment firm Bear Stearns thatlooked at data collected in so-called“gateway communities” far from theborder, such as in North Carolina. Inthese places, there have been enormous,unpredicted spikes in categoriessuch as school enrollment: The studyattributes such spikes to the influx ofundocumented immigrants.In their Time story, Barlett and Steelewrote that three million illegal immigrantsenter the country every year.They based that figure on U.S. BorderPatrol apprehensions—about one millioneach year—and then multipliedthat figure by three based on the borderpatrol’s estimate that three people getinto the country for each one who iscaught. They came under fire for doingthis for two reasons:1. Each time the Border Patrol picksup an illegal crosser, it’s countedas an apprehension. So if someonetries to cross six times (which is notuncommon) and is caught each time,six apprehensions are recordedfor only one person. Then, if thisperson succeeds in the seventh attempt—notcaught and thereforenot counted—this means one illegalimmigrant crossed the border, notsix. Using such figures to determinethe overall population is thus invalid.2. Multiplying the apprehension figureby three is a guess. Steele said theybased it on interviews with BorderPatrol, ranchers and local law enforcement,some of whom had evenhigher estimates of the number ofentrants. Steele told me he wentwith a “conservative estimate” ofthree times as many apprehended.Some reporters continue to useapprehensions to support their reporting.Some simply “lift” immigrationnumbers from other stories. Whetherone agrees with Barlett and Steele’snumbers, at least they did a thoroughjob of reporting to determine them.Barlett contends that reporting on theillegal immigration issue generally isamong the laziest he’s ever seen.Perhaps the laziest reporting I’veseen came during the April 2005 inauguralgathering of the MinutemanCivil Defense Corps in Tombstone,Arizona. The organization touted1,500 volunteers who would patrolthe Mexican border. Yet a first daycount (and registration confirmed bythe organization) showed a generous250 as the number of those who hadsigned up. But so many news organizationshad committed resources totelling this story that I had the sensethey were embarrassed to reveal thereal turnout. Or perhaps they were toobusy hyping the event to actually reportthis other part of the story. Mostly,their reports ignored reality and, indoing so, journalists created a differentreality for viewers, listeners andreaders than what they’d found at theborder. The result: The “Minutemen”became far more influential than theirnumbers—or even the success of theireffort—merited. One of their statedagendas was to raise public awarenessof their side of the issue and, in that,they succeeded.It’s also lazy for reporters to uncriticallyreport research numbers fromthe Center for Immigration Studies, athink tank whose mission is to limitimmigration. Or from the NationalImmigration Forum, a pro-immigrationthink tank. Each of these organizationspresent well-reasoned pointsof view, and these are important tounderstand and convey. But each, too,has a defined agenda, and when their“research findings” alone are cited byjournalists, they need to be placed ina context that clearly and accuratelyreflects the mission of the organizationthat provided them.Notice that I labeled neither organizationas liberal or conservative. Inthe congressional debate about legislationto deal with illegal immigration,the split is not occurring along suchpredictable lines. Instead, an odd alliancehas been struck as human rightsadvocates and big business push aguest worker program and a path tocitizenship, while law and order andborder security factions favor stricterlaw enforcement, walls along the border,and enforced removal. Though thenews media have done a pretty goodjob in explaining this political anomaly,my sense is that much of the public stillsees this issue as one splitting alongliberal and conservative lines.One of the best resources on immigrationdata comes from the conservativeHeritage Foundation. Published inJuly 2006, the report is called “Buildinga Better Border: What the Experts Say,”and it is written by David B. Muhlhausen.It was difficult to detect a pro- oranti-immigration bias in his report, inwhich Muhlhausen compiled what he70 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the Journeyconsiders the most reliable social scienceresearch, regardless of its pointof view. His report illuminates someof the deeper contradictions that existin immigration data. What follows isone example:“A review of the social science literatureon the effect of increased borderenforcement on illegal immigrationshows mixed results. Some studiesfind no effect, while others indicate apositive or negative relationship betweenincreased border enforcementand illegal immigration. However, theliterature indicates that increased borderenforcement appears to slow theflow of illegal immigrants leaving theUnited States. Thus, immigration lawenforcement that is overly reliant onborder enforcement may actually leadto an increase in the number of illegalaliens residing in the United States.One particularly comprehensive studyestimates that:• Hiring an additional Border Patrolagent stops roughly 771 to 1,621individuals from coming illegallyinto the country.• The hiring of this same agent encouragesroughly 831 to 1,966 individualsto increase the duration of theirillegal stay in the United States.• Thus, the effect of an additionalagent is unclear, possibly resultingin a net reduction of 503 individualsor a net increase of 995 individualsresiding in the United States illegally.”The content of this report doesn’tnecessarily make for a scintillatingstory, but perhaps it contains manystories well worth telling. As thingsstand right now, a lot of “reporting”about illegal immigration tends—eitherthrough lazy inattention or bypurposeful intent—to veer towards“opinion journalism,” in which emotiontrumps this kind of thoughtfulanalysis. Danger arises when opinionarrives, wearing the mask of fact, andthen is left unchallenged. ■Ted Robbins is the Southwest UnitedStates correspondent for NPR.What’s Old Is New AgainA documentary film about immigration reveals historic articles and images withmessages familiar to us today.By Lorie ConwayWhen I first started lookingat historic photographs ofan abandoned Ellis Islandhospital, immigration was barely in thenews. That was more than eight yearsago, when I was beginning my workon a documentary film and book aboutthe history behind these photos. 1 Now,news and commentary about immigrationis impossible to escape. Whetherthe topic is illegal entry or cheap laboror public health—and similar argumentsabout each issue have beenvoiced by waves of immigration opponentsthrough the years—America’snew arrivals rarely have failed to inspiredire predictions.As I wrote grant proposals for theNational Endowment for the Humanities,my research revealed turn-of-thecenturyarticles and cartoons that areechoed today in what we see publishedin newspapers. Of course, our nation isno longer in the midst of an IndustrialRevolution, which fueled its need forimmigrant labor at the turn of the 20thcentury. But the United States’s serviceeconomy of the early 21st century,combined with a lack of opportunityin other countries, now attracts equallyhard-working immigrants willing to filljobs that many native-born Americanswon’t do.With immigration comes familiartensions. The sign on the door mightnot read “No Irish Need Apply,” but“Orders must be made in English”carries the same message. Though anation of immigrants, when the meltingpot starts to boil over, the last groupto come over the border, either legallyor illegally, feels the heat.A century ago, immigrants diagnosedwith an illness were detained inthe Ellis Island hospital and expected topay for their medical care. The healthof the individual immigrant was secondary,however, to the health of thenation. Concern for the public’s healthwas the primary reason why one of theworld’s larger, state-of-the-art hospitalswas built on two islands adjacent toEllis Island with the express purposeof serving immigrants. Fear that a less1Conway was given exclusive access to film the abandoned medical complex—22 buildings on twoislands adjacent to Ellis Island. She also interviewed five former patients (two have since died)about their experiences in the hospital. Her film, which received three National Endowment forthe Humanities grants, will premiere at an event on Ellis Island in either the fall of 2007 or earlyin 2008.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 71


Migration and Immigrationthan fit person would become an “LPC”(likely to become a public charge,which was an early 20th century versionof a welfare dependent) was cause forany immigrant traveling in third classto be medically inspected. Yet, in spiteof more than 30 medical restrictionsimposed on these millions of travelers,relatively few were deported. Most ofthose hospitalized were able to payfor their care or were supported byimmigrant aid societies; nine out of10 became citizens.One hundred million Americansalive today can trace their roots to EllisIsland. As for the nation’s health, noepidemic was ever traced to any immigrantgroup. During its three decadesof operation, the Ellis Island hospitalaccomplished its mission. John HenryWilberding, who had measles whenhe passed through the hospital on hisway from Germany, told me in an oncamerainterview about the hospital:“Here was a place that rescued you, thatmade you feel good that you were stillbeing cared for and in a strange placethousands of miles away.” ■Lorie Conway, a 1994 Nieman Fellowwho makes films for her company,Boston Film and Video Productions,is producing “Fear & Fever on EllisIsland,” the first film and book aboutthe Ellis Island immigrant hospital.It will be broadcast on PBS, with ashorter version to be shown in theEllis Island museum. SmithsonianBooks will publish the film’s companionbook.“An enduring commonwealthmust of necessity guard rigidlythe health of its citizens andprotect itself against undesirableadditions from without .… It canbe truthfully said that the dregsand off-scouring of foreign lands,the undesirables of whom theirown nations are only too eagerto purge themselves, come inhosts to our shores. The policy ofthose advocating free immigrationwould make this countryin effect the dumping groundof the world.” —William Williams,two-term Commissionerof Immigration at Ellis Islandwho helped persuade Congress toexpand the list of 17 medical exclusionsto include varicose veinsand a catch-all condition called“poor physique.” This cartoon,circa 1902, courtesy of the Libraryof Congress.“We cannot have too much immigration of the rightkind, and we should have none at all of the wrong kind.The need is to devise some system by which undesirableimmigrants shall be kept out entirely, while desirableimmigrants are properly distributed throughout thecountry.” —President Theodore Roosevelt’s response tothe spike in immigration in 1907 when a record numberof one million immigrants landed at Ellis Island. Thiscartoon, circa 1907, courtesy of the Library of Congress.72 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


About the JourneyDuring its three decadesserving as a hospital for EllisIsland immigrants, 350 babieswere born. Many were namedafter the doctors and nurseswho helped deliver them.Along with conducting classesin nutrition, public healthnurses also taught new mothersabout personal hygiene andwell-baby care. For older childrenwho were hospitalized,Red Cross volunteers readthem books from the hospitallibrary, enabling many to learnEnglish by the time they leftEllis Island.After her clothes were fumigated, a newlyarrived immigrant at Ellis Island has herhair examined for lice by a public healthnurse. This examination was part of amedical inspection imposed on all thirdclasspassengers who traveled to Americaduring the great wave of immigration atthe turn of the 20th century. ■Photos courtesy of the United States Public Health Services.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 73


Words & ReflectionsContending that Daniel Okrent’s book “Public Editor #1” might be “the only collection ofombudsman columns ever assembled that is a genuine page turner,” former Boston Globeombudsman, Mark Jurkowitz, now with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, introducessome of the author’s candid reflections on the challenging 18 months he spent as The NewYork Times’ first “public editor” during a time of increased public scrutiny of the newspaper’scoverage and practices. Barry Sussman, editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project, notes thatnews media observer Eric Boehlert uses his book, “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over forBush,” to identify and scrupulously document “just about every press misjudgment, foible,stupidity, bias and kowtow” that the press has exhibited in its failure “to assert itself and holdthe administration accountable.”Samuel Rachlin, who has reported extensively in the United States for Danish television,uses Stephen Hess’s findings in his book, “Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in theUnited States,” as a starting point in describing some of the “disgraceful” common practiceshe observed among his foreign peers in their coverage from Washington, D.C. And he offers adifferent strategy for news organizations to consider in how they use foreign correspondents.After finishing his Nieman year, Brent Walth, a reporter with The Oregonian, taughtjournalism in Harvard University’s summer school. He assigned to his beginning studentsSamuel G. Freedman’s book, “Letters to a Young Journalist,” and their positive response to itconfirmed his sense of the value of Freedman’s message. Walth applauds the author for having“the courage to say things most of us in the newsroom know but rarely admit.”In her role as executive producer of PBS’s “Between the Lions,” Judy Stoia figures outways to link visual storytelling with letters and words as a way of helping young childrenlearn how to read. With the recent publication of books about news events and issues that aretargeted at an adolescent audience—two of them by New York Times reporters—she finds thepossibilities they present encouraging. “At a minimum,” she writes, they will “demystify thepaper to a generation that probably has never read The New York Times.”Retired syndicated columnist Jules Witcover explains how linguist Geoffrey Nunberg’sbook, “Talking Right,” burrows beneath the “linguistic dexterity” of political leaders, but hefocuses, too, on where this verbal jousting leaves journalists. Their job, he decides, is “todecipher for the public the linguistic obfuscations, exaggerations and deceptions that conveyfalse claims or accusations by the perpetrator.” Longtime Philadelphia Daily News obituarywriter Jim Nicholson appreciates the meticulous attention that Marilyn Johnson devotes tothe “dead beat,” in her book of that name, and describes the odd way in which he found hisway to this beat and what he did to influence the writing of obituaries once he got there. “Mywords gave readers thousands of moments to remember of little lives well lived,” he writes.“Perhaps I even gave them the secrets of how to live one well.” And former Sports Illustratedwriter Jim Kaplan visits the memoir, “Full Swing: Hits, Runs and Errors in a Writer’s Life,” byNew York Times sportswriter Ira Berkow. He takes from it an understanding of how Berkow’schildhood experiences in Chicago—his family, schooling and jobs—shaped much about howhe handled himself as a journalist. “Even with these early lessons in nuance, observation andhumor,” Kaplan writes, “it took Berkow some years to emerge as a writer.” ■74 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Doing an Unenviable Job in an Enviable WayA former ombudsman and media critic describes what Daniel Okrent wrote as public editor and what hehas to say about the job he did.BooksPublic Editor #1: The Collected Columns (with Reflections, Reconsiderations, and Even a FewRetractions) of the First Ombudsman of The New York TimesDaniel OkrentPublicAffairs. 291 Pages. $22.By Mark JurkowitzIn recent years, the ranks of the traditionallylonely American ombudsman—thatunique journalist whofunctions as part complaint department/partinternal affairs cop—haveexpanded with the addition of ombudsmenat institutions like NPR andPBS. (CBS’s new “Public Eye” onlinefeature also fills a quasi-watchdogfunction.) Their stature and visibilityhave also increased thanks in part toJim Romenesko’s decision to regularlyinclude ombudsmen columns in hisobsessively read media Web site.But one of the most positive developmentsin the 39-year history of U.S.newspapers and ombudsmen (andwomen) emerged from the debris ofthe disastrous Jayson Blair scandal atThe New York Times in 2003. In one ofBill Keller’s first acts as executive editor,he reversed the Times’s long-standingand public resistance to the concept ofhiring an outside monitor to evaluatethe paper. Instead of this person beingan ombudsman, the title he gave to theperson who would assume this unenviablerole was “public editor.” AndKeller also made a surprising choice,picking a gifted writer and something ofa Renaissance man, but someone whohadn’t actually worked at a newspapersince his college days.When the Times came calling, DanOkrent’s reputation was that of a distinguishedauthor and veteran magazinejournalist, having spent a good chunkof his career as an editor at Time Inc.In certain circles, he is best known asthe founder of “Rotisserie” or fantasybaseball, a game that has turned ageneration of middle-aged men intomake-believe baseball executives andone that has spun off a series of relatedcottage industries. In considerablysmaller circles, he is recognized as acrossword puzzle addict, a devoteeof many forms of music, and a prettyserious food aficionado.… Okrent recalls thewords of Times publisherArthur Sulzberger, Jr., attheir first meeting: ‘Whyon earth would you wantto do this?’Okrent has admitted to sufferingfrom one outbreak of last-minute panicand second-guessing after taking theTimes job. Little wonder. Being the paper’sfirst public editor was certain to bea thankless task at a very proud—somemight say arrogant—institution thathouses a fractious and hypercompetitiveinternal culture. His every wordof criticism or validation was sure tobe scrutinized and analyzed by manyTimes readers, Times workers and, ofcourse, sworn Times haters. Still, hewas well-suited for the test as an outsider,a short-timer (he signed on foronly 18 months), and a very confidentman who had already achieved considerableprofessional success.Columns He WroteThe first thing worth noting about“Public Editor #1: The CollectedColumns (with Reflections, Reconsiderations,and Even a Few Retractions)of the First Ombudsman of The NewYork Times” is that it might be the onlycollection of ombudsman columnsever assembled that is a genuine pageturner. That isn’t to denigrate the writingability of other ombudsmen, butsome of the more mundane aspectsof the job—monitoring comic strips,wayward lottery numbers, headlinesnafus, and ink that comes off on thereader’s hand—don’t usually providethe fodder for bracing literary work.Okrent dutifully tackled some of thesemore routine topics by counting up thenumber of annual Times corrections,addressing concerns about listings, andfretting about inconsistent “overlines”Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 75


Words & Reflectionsin the paper. But his talents—abettedby the generous amount of space hewas given—made almost every columnhe wrote a must read.Who else would describe a series offlawed stories on Iraq’s alleged prewarstocks of weapons of mass destructionas “an ongoing minuet of startling assertionfollowed by understated contradiction”?Or accuse ethically shakycolumnists of relying on “indirectionand innuendo, nestling together in abed of lush sophistry”? Or note thata Times edition from yesteryear containedthe “obituaries of 24 luminariesof very faint wattage”? In his “PublicEditor #1” review for The New YorkTimes, Harold Evans suggested sucha silky touch could be a liability, notingthat Okrent seemed “sometimesseduced by his own fluency,forsaking the cool judicialrole for that of ‘watch mewrite a column.’”But as someone who spenttwo years in the 1990’s asombudsman at The BostonGlobe, I can testify that muchof the job is a tough, grittyslog; no one takes it on forthe writing opportunities. Inan aptly titled chapter called“Notes on An UnendearingProfession,” Okrent recalls the wordsof Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger,Jr., at their first meeting: “Why on earthwould you want to do this?”Okrent went on to write his shareof tough-minded, important and courageouscolumns. The most noteworthyoccurred on May 30, 2004, whenhe broke his own rule not to revisitevents that predated his tenure. Inthat column he examined how theTimes—and then star reporter JudithMiller—managed during the run-upto the 2003 Iraq invasion to convincereaders that Saddam Hussein “possessed,or was acquiring, a frighteningarsenal of WMD.” Okrent blamed asweeping “institutional” failure and a“dysfunctional system” that failed toreign in reporters. Okrent’s decisionto examine the Times’s failures in Iraqhelped prompt Keller to beat him tothe punch with an eyebrow-raising May26, 2004 note to readers acknowledgingthat some coverage of the WMDissue “was not as rigorous as it shouldhave been.” Okrent’s critique carriedmore sting, as he called it “flawedjournalism.”In another memorable column,Okrent answered the complicated andcritical question posed by his headline“Is The New York Times a LiberalNewspaper?” in four pithy words—“ofcourse it is.” (In his final column, heacknowledged some regret about thelanguage in that piece, admitting thathe’d “reduced a complex issue to asound bite.”)Writing About What He WroteOkrent was no ordinary ombudsman.He monitored America’s most powerfuland most talked about newspaper, wasprovided with an unusually potentbully pulpit ….In entertaining follow-ups appendedto the original columns, “Public Editor#1” offers valuable insights intothe newsroom reaction to his work,opening up a pretty wide windowinto the Times’s churning internalmachinations. To hammer home thatpoint, Okrent, in a dishy introductorychapter that includes some score settling,bluntly described it as “a cultureof complaint” and compared it to lifeinside a “kennel.” (No one can accusehim of dull writing.)Not all of Okrent’s work was a winner.Tackling what is arguably the mostdangerous and inflammatory subjectan ombudsman can handle—whethera paper’s coverage of the Middle Eastis biased—he penned an artful, nuancedpiece that largely managed toduck the question. And a parting shotin his final May 22, 2005 piece thatcriticized columnist Paul Krugman for“shaping, slicing and selectively citingnumbers” seemed below the belt andafter the bell.One thing for readers and everyoneelse to keep in mind is that Okrentwas no ordinary ombudsman. Hemonitored America’s most powerfuland most talked about newspaper,was provided with an unusually potentbully pulpit, and was liberated by hisown status, ego and the realizationthat he would soon be back pursuinghis passion for writing books.In an unusual introductory columnon December 7, 2003, for example,Okrent attempted to create intimacywith the readers by describing himselfas “registered Democrat, but notablyto the right of my fellow Democratson Manhattan’s Upper West Side” andticking off his views on everything fromabortion to the New York Yankees.That kind of confessional might ormight not have been a goodidea. But the average ombudsman—planningto be on thejob for years and understandablyconcerned about the importanceof an image of soberjudicial objectivity—wouldn’thave dared.As incongruous as it sounds,Okrent was pretty much an ombudsmanrock star, not one ofthe rank-and-file toiling awayquietly trying to balance angryreaders and touchy colleagues alongwith career aspirations. But the mostimportant thing is that he was prettydamn fearless, usually wise, and alwayscommitted. And in an era when publicskepticism and high-profile scandalshave made it all the more importantfor news media outlets to promotetransparency and engage in dialogue,his stint as “Public Editor #1” at thenation’s most important newspaperproduced a high tide that lifted theboats of all ombudsmen. ■Mark Jurkowitz, associate directorof the Washington, D.C.-based Projectfor Excellence in Journalism, was fornearly two decades involved in coveringthe news media as press criticand author of the Boston Phoenix’s“Don’t Quote Me” column and at TheBoston Globe, where he was ombudsmanand then its first full-timemedia beat writer.76 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


BooksDebunking the Myth of Liberal Media BiasA journalist and author finds an enfeebled Washington press corps, more concerned with retainingpersonal access than serving the public interest.Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for BushEric BoehlertFree Press. 333 Pages. $25.By Barry SussmanFew leading news organizations orwell-known Washington journalistscome off unscathed in this grim accountof the news media’s record during thelast few years. Starting with the year2000 and going through 2005, EricBoehlert tracks the heavy hitters’ coverageof George W. Bush and finds itlacking and them, often, lackeys.“The goal of ‘Lapdogs,’” Boehlertwrites in his preface, “is to cut throughincessant rhetoric about a liberal mediabias, and to show, factually, just how themainstream media has tipped the scalesin President Bush’s favor for goingon six years …. the conclusion—thatthe press rolled over for Bush—[is]inescapable.”During this period, Boehlert wroteessays about the news media for theonline publication Salon.com; nowhe is a contributor to The HuffingtonPost and a contributing editor to RollingStone. Having dozens of his ownnews articles and essays to work fromenabled him to go back, easily, andrevisit just about every press misjudgment,foible, stupidity, bias and kowtowthat he captured along the way.My impression is that his Salonreports, which he describes as the“foundation” of “Lapdogs,” must havefocused on the failures of editors andreporters and very rarely, if at all, onworthwhile accomplishments. Thus,chapter after chapter of his book consistsof negative accounts of the workof well-known TV and newspaper figureswho often are highly respected,even venerated, elsewhere. The bookwould have been a little less jarringhad Boehlert reached out a bit. Butthat’s not what he had in mind, andso be it. Authors are entitled to theirapproach, and Boehlert is scrupulousin documenting his many assertions.Among those criticized to one extentor another are Ted Koppel, Chris Matthews,Bob Woodward, Wolf Blitzer,Nicholas Kristof, Bob Schieffer, LeonardDownie, Jr., David Westin, KatieCouric, David Broder, Tim Russert,Charlie Gibson, the late Peter Jennings,Howard Kurtz, Bill Keller, Newsweek,Time, The New York Times, and TheWashington Post. Each is left somewhatscarred by Boehlert’s knife.Regarding Koppel, Boehlert writesabout a certain affinity he has shownfor secretaries of state: “‘We are luckyto have had you,’ Koppel phoned to tellHenry Kissinger as he prepared to leaveoffice following the GOP election lossin 1976, and just years after Kissingerhelped oversee the U.S. bombing ofLaos and Cambodia which killed nearlyone million civilians.”About the friendship between Koppeland Colin Powell, he writes thatPowell sat for three in-depth “Nightline”interviews in the 13 months afterthe invasion of Iraq. They occasionallytalked on air about Powell’s health andthe Washington Redskins football team.But “during Powell’s first ‘Nightline’interview, October 31, 2003, he wasnot asked one question about his U.N.performance [a month before the Iraqwar] despite the fact that observers hadalready detailed the obvious errors inPowell’s presentation. In fact it tookthe international press just one week todetail the holes in Powell’s speech. Buteight months later on ‘Nightline,’ Koppelpaid no attention to that fact.”Boehlert takes a look at some of thedialogue between Chris Matthews andGeorge W. Bush in a 2000 interview.This conversation took place seven daysafter The Boston Globe had revealedthat Bush had fallen off the Air NationalGuard’s radar for months at a timebetween 1972 and 1973. It was wellknown, too, that Ben Barnes [formerspeaker of the Texas house] had testifiedunder oath a year earlier that he’dplaced a call in 1968 in order to helpget Bush a coveted slot in the Texas AirNational Guard. Yet Matthews refusedto raise any uncomfortable questionsfor Bush about Vietnam:Matthews: Let me ask you aboutVietnam and your service. You were inthe Air National Guard. You took a lotof— and I will give you credit. It takesNieman Reports / Fall 2006 77


Words & Reflectionsa lot of guts to get in a jet plane andfly it. I mean, I don’t think anybodyought to knock that.Governor Bush: Thank you.Matthews went on to ask Bush if, inretrospect, the draft system duringVietnam was unfair.Matthews: Do you ever feel like, damnit, what an awful system to put someguys at risk and other guys not?Governor Bush: No. You know whatI felt? I felt like what a bad war, thatwe didn’t fight the war to win. And thelessons from this generation ought tobe not to commit troops to win a war…. (Applause)As for Bob Schieffer, Boehlert findsmore than a little cronyism, notingthat he used to play golf and go tobaseball spring training with Bush;that Schieffer’s brother was a businesspartner of Bush’s as president ofthe Texas Rangers baseball team; thatBush appointed the brother as ambassadorto Australia and then Japan.“Immediately following his reelectionas governor of Texas in 1998, Bush wasinundated with interview requests fromthe national media, curious about hispolitical ambitions. Bush turned themall down, but one,” Schieffer on “Facethe Nation.” Boehlert also notes thatin his 2004 book about his Sundaymorning news show, Schieffer told ofcongratulating Bush, letting him knowthat “he had said exactly what neededto be said” in an interview on the eve ofthe 2000 New Hampshire primary.Given Boehlert’s evidence, it doesseem as though Koppel, Matthews andSchieffer were a little too close andcomfortable, not at all adversarial—andnot then able to represent the public’sinterest, as journalists should. Thatis Boehlert’s basic charge, one hemakes time and again—and quite effectively—againstso many stalwarts ofthe Washington press corps.How the Press RespondedIt can be easy to forget some of the Bushadministration’s gross and numerousmissteps, but Boehlert reminds us ofmany while providing plenty of examplesof feeble news coverage. Whatshould have been a two- or three-daystory, the vicious “swift boat” attackson presidential candidate John Kerry,were paid for by major, longtime Texasbackers of Bush. Then, with cableTV outlets leading the way and themore traditional news organizationsclose behind, the allegations cameto dominate election coverage to theexclusion of other, more importantand legitimate stories. As Boehlert putit, “The press spooked about beingtagged as too liberal, played dumb onan unprecedented scale, much to theWhite House’s delight.”One of the worst cases Boehlertexplores—a news media forfeit, onecould call it—is the bumbling coverageof the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson/Nigeraluminum tubes/defective SenateIntelligence Committee inquiry ofprewar behavior by Bush and othersin the White House. In essence, theseevents all meld into one story, with theunderlying issue being whether Bushknowingly hyped or twisted phonyintelligence reports to gain public supportfor the war. That is no small issue,but readers and viewers couldn’t tell itfrom much of the news coverage, noteven to this day. Boehlert notes thatas late as July 2005, ABC’s “Nightline”reported that “for two years it hasbeen unknown who told reporters theidentity of Valerie Plame.” The fact is,however, as he shows, at least 10 Washingtonreporters did know, but noneeither broke the story or advanced itin any way.Other examples of poorly coverednews events that Boehlert writesabout can make one shudder. Theyinclude:• The run-up to the Iraq War, AbuGhraib, and Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld• Halliburton, false estimates of thecosts of the Iraq War• Vice President Dick Cheney, includinghis hunting accident• Guantanamo Bay• The Terri Schiavo case• Jack Abramoff and political corruption• Hurricane Katrina and its clean-up• Stem cell research restrictions• Forays against Social Security andtax benefits for the wealthy• Replacing Bill Moyers and weakeningthe Corporation for PublicBroadcasting.An important criticism Boehlertmakes falls into the “you can’t criticizeRepublicans without also criticizingDemocrats” department of so-calledbalanced news coverage, and it playedout flagrantly in coverage of theAbramoff case. In Boehlert’s words,here is what happened:“In January 2006, when Newsweekwrote up the indictments of JackAbramoff, the GOP kingpin lobbyist, themagazine’s headline read: ‘A WashingtonTidal Wave: Members of Congressrushed to give back money,’ suggestingthe influence peddling scandal was abipartisan ‘Washington’ problem. TheNewsweek article stressed the publicwould likely ‘remain appropriatelyskeptical of both parties.’ [Emphasisadded.] Time used the same kid gloveapproach: ‘Jack Abramoff built a powernetwork using the rich and naive.Washington may pay the price.’ [Emphasisadded.] The Washington Postfalsely reported Abramoff had ‘madesubstantial campaign contributionsto both major parties,’ and NBC’s KatieCouric insisted, ‘Democrats tookmoney … from Jack Abramoff, too.’All four MSM organizations dutifullymouthed GOP spin about a bipartisanscandal and ignored the plain fact thatnot one Democrat had accepted taintedcontributions from Abramoff, not oneDemocrat had been indicted, and notone Democrat was under investigationfor accepting Abramoff money.”Boehlert refreshes our memory, too,about some of the Bush administration’scrude and malicious manipulationsto undermine press credibility. Ineach instance, two key elements wereintertwined: treachery or highly questionabledecisions by those in power(more often treachery) and a weak,often lapdog response by the newsmedia. About this Boehlert writes:78 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Books“All sorts of extraordinary pressinitiatives, like producing phony,look-alike newscasts to run on localtelevision stations, paying punditsto hype White House initiatives, severelyrestricting the government’spublic flow of information, sponsoringa partisan crusade against publictelevision, prosecuting journalists,and giving special White House pressprivileges to a former GOP male escortwho was waved into the Bush WhiteHouse—minus the FBI backgroundcheck—while volunteering for a rightwingpropaganda Web site.”What was the press’s response? “Infive-plus years the press failed againand again to assert itself and hold theadministration accountable,” Boehlertconcludes. If what he argues andpresents as evidence suggests that thepress never asserted itself, then it’s anexaggeration. But unfortunately, it’snot much of one. ■Barry Sussman is editor of the NiemanFoundation’s Watchdog Projectand the Web site, www.niemanwatchdog.orgRethinking Foreign Correspondents’ American Dream‘No foreign news organization has the access, sources or resources to enable them to operate in the sameleague as domestic journalists.’Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in the United StatesStephen HessBrookings Institution Press. 195 Pages. $18.95 pb.By Samuel RachlinThe best and brightest go to the UnitedStates. At least that’s the adage heard inmany news organizations when assignmentsof foreign correspondents areconsidered. Not always do things workthis way, but this reflects accurately thefact that an assignment to Washington,D.C. or New York is considered one ofthe more prestigious reporting jobsin the business. Sometimes foreignnews organizations use such assignmentsto lure talented reporters fromcompeting newspapers or TV stations,offering them what some refer to asthe foreign correspondent’s version ofthe “American dream.” Considering theheavyweight power of the story’s political,economic and cultural dimensions,for this assignment to be much soughtafter should come as no surprise.The unique mix of opportunity,talent, money, ambition, ethnicity andboundless freedom makes this destinationattractive and repulsive, irresistibleand revolting at the same time. As soonas a news organization can afford tosend its own correspondent to reportfrom this place that feeds the fascinationand inspires the dreams of itsreaders, viewers and listeners aroundthe globe, it will. Simply put, Americais just a great story.As a young journalist I felt its pull,and I took my first step by attendingColumbia University’s Graduate Schoolof Journalism. After graduation, myother fascination—with the then-SovietUnion—then drew me there duringthe Brezhnev era, where I reportedfor seven years before I received a Niemanin the mid-1980’s. That gave meanother chance to dive into Americanpolitics, culture and lifestyle, but onlybriefly since I returned to Denmark, myhomeland, when the fellowship ended.It wasn’t until 1990 that I fulfilled myAmerican dream by becoming Washingtonbureau chief of TV2 Denmarkand opened the station’s first bureauthere.The Tug of the RoadMy ongoing fascination with Americais matched by Stephen Hess’s fascinationwith foreign correspondents inAmerica, which he writes about in hisrecent book, “Through Their Eyes:Foreign Correspondents in the UnitedStates.” Hess, a senior fellow emeritusat The Brookings Institution and professorof media at George WashingtonUniversity, has written a book that examinesthe work of foreign correspondentsin the United States. Based onsurveys and statistics, his study showswith almost anthropological accuracywho the foreign correspondents are,Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 79


Words & Reflectionswhat they report, and how they work.With anti-Americanism on the rise,Americans need to understand whatforeigners know and think about them.Of course, foreign correspondents influencetheir audience’s perceptions,so learning more about how they dotheir jobs can help Americans understandbetter what people in the rest ofthe world think about them and theircountry and why.For a journalist, America is the landof endless opportunity. The only limitationis your own energy, imaginationand entrepreneurial spirit. After workingunder the constraints of the SovietUnion’s paranoia and totalitarianism,America felt like a huge smorgasbord.With no more handlers and mindersand no detailed application forms to fillout before going somewhere, I was freeto pick and choose among a magnitudeof stories, issues and angles.One of my challenges became decidingwhat stories would be most interestingfor viewers in Denmark. Anotherwas figuring out how to accommodatemy editors’ demand for solid coverageof breaking news—mostly political andinternational stories—while also pursuingmy interest in working on morefeature stories. With breaking news, thesad fact is that foreign news organizationscompete with U.S. reporters in agame they can never win. No foreignnews organization has the access,sources or resources to enable themto operate in the same league as domesticjournalists. Not even seasonedforeign correspondents can penetratethe walls surrounding the most importantpolitical U.S. institutions. Forgetabout it: Foreigners have no clout,because those who wield power donot care about constituencies otherthan their own. In most cases, foreignjournalists borrow (“lift”), rewrite(or plagiarize) what U.S. papers andnetworks have produced on any givenstory. With pressure from the home office,they have no other choice. WhenI see a Danish newspaper with fouror five bylines of a Washington-basedcorrespondent, I know exactly whathappened and how the stories wereproduced/reproduced.Aside from struggling with editors toleave Washington to report, correspondentsface financial constraints. Travelis expensive, especially for a TV crew,and editors do not like the risk of havingtheir correspondent be away whena big story breaks in the capital.However, these feature stories actuallyprovide more value than the materialborrowed from the U.S. news mediaby showing aspects of “regular” livesoutside the Beltway. A trip I made to anuclear missile base in South Dakota,where I spoke with members of the localcommunity, served as the backdropfor a piece I did about disarmament.This same kind of personal, local engagementhappened in a story I didon snake handlers in West Virginia andabout a mega-church in Houston, aboutbaseball as the national pastime and across burning by the Ku Klux Klan inMaryland. I sent home stories about amachine-gun shoot in Kentucky, Japanesecowboy apprentices at a cattleranch in Montana, and David Dukecampaigning in Louisiana, as well as adocumentary I did about the tragedyof gun violence. Each of these storieshad at its core people who lived faraway from the center of political andeconomic power but whose culturaland social circumstances proved tobe of great interest to our viewersoverseas.The greatest tension I feel in myjob—and the one most difficult toresolve—is the pull between the massivelycovered hard-news story (andmy editor’s expectation that I be thereto cover it) and the original story, producedand reported independently. Itis with the latter that I believe foreigncorrespondents can do as fine a job injournalism as their American peers.Common PracticeIn his book, Hess writes about theborrowed and shared material, butin my view he is too easy on the correspondents.Though he observes thatmuch anti-Americanism pops up in foreignreporting from the United States(the fact is it’s a lot), he doesn’t fullyexplore how and why this happens, acircumstance that at times is relatedto the borrowing that goes on. Oftena foreign correspondent will “lift” theessence of a story from an Americanmedia source without attribution andvery often directly translate into theiraudience’s language entire sectionsof an article. Then, to personalize andconceal the origins of the story, the correspondentwill put down his stakesby “sexing up” the material with somecritical or sarcastic remarks, therebyclaiming ownership and copyright.Usually such comments convey an anti-American attitude. It is a disgracefulpractice and far more common thanone would think from reading Hess’saccount.Danish newspapers, like other Europeannews organizations, reportedin detail about the scandals involvingreporters at The New York Times, USAToday, and The New Republic whomade-up or plagiarized informationin their stories. But none reportedthat the award-winning Washingtoncorrespondent of a leading Danishnewspaper, on the first anniversary of9/11, had lifted huge portions of a brilliantarticle from Esquire magazine withheadline, anecdotes and tone withouta shadow of an attribution. That wasshameful, but it was definitely not anexceptional case.With the Internet, access to the contentof U.S. newspapers, radio and televisionis global. Because of the time difference,sometimes editors and otherjournalists will have seen the U.S. newsreports before the correspondents do.This makes it even more ridiculousfor foreign publications to use theircorrespondents to cover what goes onin this country in the traditional manner.Writers back home could rewritenews copy as quickly and as well asthe distant correspondent. In today’sglobal media environment, those whoare based in foreign lands ought toprovide analysis and background tohelp readers and viewers understandbetter the news reporting that is availablein many places. This is true evenon electronic media with live reportingfrom a news scene; once the facts areknown, what a foreign correspondentcan best provide is context.If this strategy were followed—andI believe changes in the habits and pat-80 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Booksterns of news usage will lead to it beingpursued—then a correspondent’s timeand the company’s resources could bedevoted to stories that few other newsreporters are going to tell. When thechoice is between second-rate, recyclednews that most foreign correspondentsnow file and fresh, evocative reportingdelivered by people who share with theaudience a cultural background andframework, the one that delivers valueto the news organization and viewersand readers should be apparent. That’swhere the future competitive edge inforeign coverage will be.Most U.S. assignments for foreigncorrespondents last four years. By thetime they are headed home, most correspondentsrealize they are only nowgetting a real feel for the vast archipelagoof diverse cultures, traditions,values and languages. They’ve followeda political cycle with campaigns, conventionsand elections, traveled to thedifferent parts of the country, and arenow able to distinguish between theprejudice they brought with them andthe realities they encounter. They’veovercome their initial cultural shockand developed an understanding ofsome of the paradoxes and absurdities,the greed and the generosity, the opennessand the bigotry, and the beauty andthe achievements of this complicated,multilayered society that is like no othercountry. This is when they begin tosee America as the ongoing social andcultural experiment that it is.It is a shame that this is just whencorrespondents usually go home totake advantage of what their time inthe United States will have done, inmost cases, to promote their careers.As they reflect on their time here,many correspondents consider theseyears as among the more gratifyingand challenging of their professionallives. Many embrace the memories oftheir American dream but sometimes,back home, they will think wistfully ofall the stories they never got to reportand all the borrowing they were forcedto do. ■Samuel Rachlin, a 1985 Nieman Fellow,was Washington bureau chieffor Danish TV2 in the early 1990’s,then he worked for the World Bankfor several years before resuming hiscareer in journalism. While continuingto live in Washington, D.C. hereported on Russia from 1998 to2001, commuting to Moscow, thenanchored the business and financenews for TV2 for the next four yearsin Copenhagen. Since 2005, he hasbeen a roving correspondent for TV2,covering Russia, Ukraine and otherformer Soviet republics, and occasionallythe United States.Journalism: Its Generational PassageSamuel G. Freedman ‘urges young journalists to be independent thinkers in newsrooms filled withconsensus and conformity.’Letters to a Young JournalistSamuel G. FreedmanBasic Books. 184 Pages. $22.95.By Brent WalthMost journalists can think of at leastone moment when what they wrotemade a difference, even if in a smallway. When that happens, most of usmust confess, our hearts race. Andwe should confess this, too: We owewhatever success we’ve had to thosewho came before us and took time toteach us this craft.It might have been those high schoolnewspaper advisers who taught usthe basic skills we use today. Or oldercolleagues who helped us as rookie reportersto not embarrass ourselves ona story. Or those editors who, despitethe looming deadline, showed us howto improve our writing and not just fixour copy for that day.Mentors invest time and faith in uswhen we haven’t yet earned it—usuallywith the belief that we will earn itand then pass on what we’ve learnedto others someday.Samuel G. Freedman has taken thisspirit and pressed it into the pagesof his most recent book, “Letters toa Young Journalist.” Freedman is anaward-wining author, columnist forThe New York Times, and professor atColumbia University’s Graduate Schoolof Journalism. He also spent years as adaily reporter for the Times and otherpapers before quitting to write booksfull-time.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 81


Words & ReflectionsFreedman’s important book is intendedto be a helping but firm hand onthe shoulder of beginning journalists.Freedman sees—quite rightly—that therole of newsroom mentor is neededmore than ever before and not alwayscarried out as it once was—a debt unpaid.“We didn’t invent reporting,” hequotes one journalist. “It was passedon to us.”The bookstore shelves already sagwith tomes of advice from stars whooffer tips on how you, too, can be thenext big thing in narrative journalism.To Freedman, the mission is what’simportant. He’s not ashamedto declare journalism a sacredcalling. He urges youngjournalists to be independentthinkers in newsrooms filledwith consensus and conformity.He tells them the measureof a journalist is not fame butthe condition of your shoes:They reveal how hard you’veworked the streets lookingfor stories. The more scuffed,the better.Freedman also has thecourage to say things most ofus in the newsroom know but rarelyadmit. Here’s one: We are all human,we are subjective by nature, and thatfairness is the ideal. Freedman arguesthe pursuit of bloodless objectivity thatdenies our humanity and seeks somesterile middle ground is both impossibleand, at times, irresponsible.Freedman’s publisher, Basic Books,has produced this book as part of itsthe “Art of Mentoring” franchise that hasgiven us such titles such as “Letters to aYoung Lawyer” (Alan Dershowitz), “Lettersto a Young Activist” (Todd Gitlin),and “Letters to a Young Contrarian”(Christopher Hitchens).You get the idea. These books—intitle, anyway—mimic the classic “Lettersto a Young Poet” by Rainer MariaRilke. Rilke between 1903 and 1908wrote 10 letters to a novice poet whosought his praise. In his letters—publishedonly after his death—Rilkedispelled the romantic image of thewriter by speaking honestly about alife of rejection and despair. Most ofall, Rilke memorably tested his youngcorrespondent’s commitment to thecraft:“Go into yourself. Find out the reasonthat commands you to write; seewhether it has spread its roots into thevery depths of your heart; confess toyourself whether you would have todie if you were forbidden to write. Thismost of all: ask yourself in the mostsilent hour of your night: must I write?”(translated by Stephen Mitchell)‘I do urge you to bear witness. I urgeyou to celebrate moments of humanachievement and unearth evidence ofhuman venality. I urge you to tell thestory. I urge you to be accountable, to yourpublic and to yourself, for what you doand how you do it.’ —Samuel G. FreedmanThis same advice could be offered tosomeone wanting to break into journalism,especially today. Freedman’sbook is strongest where it honorsRilke’s honesty:“One thing you can say about thepresent unpopularity of journalism isthat it drives out all the uncommitted.If you’re a true believer, if this is meantto be your life’s work, then nothingand nobody can change your mind ….I do urge you to bear witness. I urgeyou to celebrate moments of humanachievement and unearth evidence ofhuman venality. I urge you to tell thestory. I urge you to be accountable, toyour public and to yourself, for whatyou do and how you do it.”Freedman’s writing doesn’t quitelive up to Rilke’s words. Few of uscould match it.But Freedman’s courage to speakabout journalism in his unflinchingmoral tone gives this book its power.It’s a tonic for a business that’s turningnews into a commodity and exalts bloggingand other first-person prattling asa solution to what ails journalism. Andhis book balances the bad advice youngjournalists get about what should motivatethem. (I once heard an editor,who fancied himself as a mentor, tellreporters that wining a Pulitzer waswhat this business was really all about.I wanted to scream. Looking back, Iwish I had.)Freedman draws on journalism’srich history and tawdry tales of itsrecent past. And he occasionally usesoverwrought analogies to make hispoint—his comparisons of journalismto the novel “Kiss of the Spider Woman”and an ancient Egyptian godnamed Thoth lost me.Overall, though, he frameshis book as memoir, talkingabout his experiences as ateacher, reminiscing abouthis early days in newsroomsfilled with typewriters andcigarette smoke, and abouthis discovery that his 1996book, “The Inheritance,” wasa Pulitzer finalist. Freedmancarries his story off with humility,but I wasn’t convincedthis was the best approachfor this book. Then again, no oneconfuses me with a young journalistany more.So I assigned Freedman’s book to histarget audience: students in a beginningjournalism course I was teachingthis summer at Harvard University.“His story read like a novel,” one studentsaid during class discussion. “Iwanted to see what happened to himnext.” Other students reported thatthey hadn’t seen the deeper missionof journalism until they had heard hisstory. As another student put it. “Hetells us what lessons he learned so wecan learn them, too, you know?”“Yes, I know,” I replied, quietlygrateful that Freedman’s letters tothese young journalists had arrivedon time. ■Brent Walth, a 2006 Nieman Fellow,is a reporter with The Oregonian.82 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


A New Approach to Reaching Young AudiencesJournalists offer well-told stories to teenagers—tailoring the content to suit their reading appetites andenticing them to perhaps find their way to news reporting.BooksBy Judy StoiaFor years, newspapers have tried toengage younger readers by meetingthem where they are—on the Internetand in the classroom. But despite livelygraphics and free handouts, circulationhas dipped as young adults glean mostof their news from “The Onion” and“The Daily Show.” Now The New YorkTimes arrives with a fresh idea that playsto its own strengths: a line of youngadult books written by Times reporterson subjects the paper has coveredextensively through the years.The books, aimed at 12 to 18 yearolds,suggest a format that is eminentlyreplicable: choose a subject of interestto a teen audience; tap a reporter withdeep experience covering the story towrite the core narrative; enhance thestory with historic records, abbreviatedreports from the Times’ archives, andlavish maps and photographs.The two books, published thisspring, are a promising start. In thebook, “The North Pole Was Here:Puzzles and Perils at the Top of theWorld,” 1 Times science reporter AndrewRevkin takes readers along ashe goes on a scientific expedition tothe North Pole to probe the mysteriesof global warming. Standing on thisbeautiful and empty frontier, he describesa landscape in endless motion.His airplane lands on ice that will soonbreak up and drift away to join the restof the constantly flowing ice. He shareswith readers his anxiety about the icecracking beneath the weight of his tent,not to mention the airplane, and aboutwandering away from his group andbeing discovered by a polar bear. Indeed,many of the scientists keep riflesat their sides. Revkin marvels at a daythat lasts six months from sunrise tosunset and a horizon free of vegetation.But most of all he worries about theconsequences of climate change andhow the warming of the globe mightmelt arctic ice entirely in the next fewgenerations.Revkin’s account is punctuated withshort histories and photographs ofearly adventurers, many of whom diedtrying to reach the Pole. Archival articlesfrom the Times let readers revisit thecompeting claims made by Robert Pearyand Frederick Cook as each wantedto be recognized as the first to reachthe North Pole in 1909. Articles writtennearly a century later report thatneither probably succeeded.There is lots of science embedded ina conversational narrative that drawsreaders into the expedition’s extraordinarychallenges in a forbidding environment.Instruments anchored to thedeep seabed hold vital information butcannot be retrieved because three boltson a winch have broken. A year’s worthof work is at stake, and the problemmust be solved by “a research team thatcombines the brainpower of scientistswith the brute strength of furnituremovers,” Revkin writes.In the series’ second book, “Whenthe Wall Came Down: The Berlin Walland the Fall of Soviet Communism,” 2Serge Schmemann, a foreign correspondentwith the Times, tells of workingin his hotel room in West Berlinone night in 1989 when he learnedthe wall was coming down. He rushedinto the streets to watch and to report.Like Revkin, he weaves his first-personaccount as a journalist into a narrativethat skillfully places the drama of theBerlin Wall into the larger context ofthe cold war. Schmemann is sensitiveto the fact that the world looks muchdifferent to youngsters today than it didto us a decade ago and offers youngreaders a window into a time they’venever known.The Times will publish two morebooks this fall, “Deadly Invaders:Virus Outbreaks Around the World,1This 128-page book was published by Kingfisher in 2006.2This 128-page book was published by Kingfisher in 2006.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 83


Words & ReflectionsFrom Marburg Fever to Avian Flu” byScience Times reporter Denise Gradyand “Speed Show: How NASCAR Wonthe Heart of America,” by Times sportsreporter Dave Caldwell. The plan is topublish two books each year for a totalof 12. Subjects assigned so far includehurricanes, the history of the computer,and the turbulent year of 1968.The Times is unabashed about itsvision for the series. When these twobooks were published in the spring,editorial director Alex Ward wrote,“One of the heartening results of thisproject is the enthusiasm it has engenderedin the writers, who see it as anopportunity to revisit an importanttime in their professional lives and describeit to a whole new audience—onewe all hope will be reading the Timesfor years to come.”Fast Food KidsIn a different effort to reach youngerreaders, Eric Schlosser, the author of“Fast Food Nation,” has joined up withnewspaper journalist Charles Wilsonto produce “Chew On This: EverythingYou Don’t Want To Know about FastFood.” 3 The book poses similar questionsto those asked in “Fast Food Nation”(Do you really know where thatfast food comes from? If so, do you stillwant to eat it?), but adds a wealth ofnew reporting about the pervasivenessof fast food in the nation’s schools, theexplosion in obesity among children,and the determination of advertisersand fast food chains to hook childrenwhen they’re young and set their brandloyalty early.Young people are not only thebook’s target audience but also its maincharacters, and much of this distressingstory is told through their experiences.Seventeen-year old Danielle Brentneeds to keep her low-paying job atMcDonald’s but often works until twoin the morning, leaving her too tiredto do her homework and sleepy at herdesk the next day. Jade Alexander, 13,eats potato chips for breakfast andbuys her lunch at the school storenext to the cafeteria. “They have thisthing called ketchup chips—potatochips with ketchup flavor on them,”she reports. “The store also has Beehoney-barbecue chips, and they haveCombos, Fruit Roll-Ups, candy andcookies.” After school, Jade meetsfriends at the nearby McDonald’s, KFCor Wendy’s.Sam Fabrikant devoured fast foodfor many years. Dozens of fast foodrestaurants cluster near his school andup and down the highway. It was easyfor Sam and his friends to rush outof school at lunchtime each day for ameal of Big Macs, Whoppers and fries.By the time Sam was 15 years old, heweighed 290 pounds. The authors pickup Sam’s story as he makes the decisionto undergo gastric bypass surgery—adrastic and sometimes dangerous operationthat is increasingly commonamong teenagers. Sam, who is 16 whenhe undergoes the surgery, is comfortedby the example of his twin brother,Charlie, who had the surgery a yearearlier when he weighed 350 pounds.The brothers are alarming examples ofthe effects of fast food, loaded with fatand salt, on childhood obesity. As theauthors remind their young readers,heart attacks among teenagers are onthe rise as well as asthma, heart disease,and diabetes.“Chew On This” makes a nod to personalresponsibility for what one eatsbut also blames advertising, children’stelevision, as well as the prevalenceof soda and junk food in schools. Thebook also includes stories of healthyeating. It profiles chef Alice Waters,who launched her famous restaurantin Berkeley and persuaded severallocal middle schools to adopt healthymenus and involve kids in plantingand preparing the food they eat. It alsolets its young readers know about theIn-N-Out Burger chain and Burgerville,which pay good wages and benefits,cook fresh food, use local farmers, andare still highly profitable.The New York Times books for youngadults and “Chew On This” share acommon approach: They use a coreof existing material, rework it withyoung adults in mind, and then addreporting and illustrations to make acomprehensive story. While the Timesbooks are told in the first-person voiceand “Chew On This” is not, vivid portraitsmake these stories much moreengaging than most serious nonfictionfor young readers, which tends to thetedious.The content of these books is simplifiedbut not condescending. That said,none of them is for the teenager whois less than a fluent reader. Indeed, allof them could easily interest an adultaudience and probably will. But howsuccessful will the Times books be inbringing young readers to the newspaperitself? First, they may help developin teens a taste for serious, nonfictionwriting. Second, the books will certainlyexpose teens to the style andsweep of the Times and, at a minimum,demystify the paper to a generationthat probably has never read The NewYork Times. That may not be enoughto make them steady subscribers, butit will be a good start. ■Judy Stoia, a 1980 Nieman Fellow, isexecutive producer of “Between theLions,” an award-winning PBS televisionseries that helps young childrenlearn to read.3This 304-page book was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006.84 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


BooksWell-Chosen Words Can Weave Tangled WebsAn increasingly important job of political journalists is to ‘unmask the tricksters.’Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism Into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating,Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing FreakShowGeoffrey NunbergPublicAffairs. 264 Pages. $26.By Jules WitcoverIn a sense, Geoffrey Nunberg’s “TalkingRight” is a guidebook for politicalwriters as guardians of straight talkin a world of what he calls “linguisticdexterity,” where fact repeatedly isspun into fancy and vice versa. He focuseson conservatives’ more effectivelegerdemain as an explanation for theDemocrats’ oft-losing struggle for selfidentification.But what he describes isa word game played by both sides thatimposes a nonpartisan burden on thenews media to unmask the tricksters.The book is a perceptive updatingof a political phenomenon that goesback at least to the days of RichardNixon, one of whose most successfulundertakings was the demonization ofliberalism and the Democratic Party.The manipulation and distortion of thelanguage of politics to spread a veneerof truth and accuracy over a pack oflies and/or misrepresentations and tosoften or camouflage one’s own deceptivepolicies and proposals is evenolder than that. But it was in the Nixonyears that such tactics threw liberalismonto the defensive and cleared a pathfor the flowering of the conservativemovement in the Ronald Reagan yearsand beyond.The clarion call ironically wassounded in the 1964 defeat of thestraight-talking Barry Goldwater. Hetold his fellow conservatives to “wakeup” to the opportunities facing themif only they would unite and organizefor an assault on the liberal bastion,whose pursuit of bigger and costliergovernment was the antithesis of theirown political gospel.Nixon’s sweeping attack in 1968 ondeparting Lyndon B. Johnson’s GreatSociety, with the unintentional assistanceof Vietnam War and civil rightsprotesters whose words, dress andlifestyle offended much of America,achieved a political crucifixion of liberalism.Nixon’s characterization ofhis law-and-order pitch as “the peaceforces against the criminal forces” offereda good guys-vs.-bad guys simplificationof the voters’ choice in that yearof unruly street demonstrations.With his vice president, Spiro T.Agnew, pointedly accentuating thenegative in transparently flamboyantrhetoric designed to amuse the faithfulwhile trashing the opposition, Nixonshowed the way to subsequent bendersof words and phrases. And in doing so,Nunberg contends, the conservativesstole the very language of politics fromthe tongued-tied Democrats.It’s a claim that many Democrats andliberals will reluctantly acknowledge,as they have scrambled unsuccessfullyin each new election over thepast 40 years to counter it, with theexception of the Bill Clinton years. Histwo victories offered validation of theauthor’s argument that the Democrats’salvation in this battle of words lies “incapturing the language of everydaypolitical discussion” as Clinton did,rather than relying on meaningless,often-incomprehensible slogans. Forthe Republicans, Nunberg says, it hasbeen that skill more than “in coiningdistracting catchphrases” that has beenthe key in the conservatives’ post-Watergateresurrection.Indeed, since the Nixon years andhis pardon that helped render GeraldFord unelectable in 1976, the onlyother Republican presidential nomineedefeated was George H. W. Bush, whoin 1992 dismissed “the vision thing”and never connected with the guy onMain Street.Language and the PoliticalPressIn the conservative turnaround, thechallenge to the political journalists isnot so much to assess which party doesa better job obscuring reality. Rather,it’s to decipher for the public the linguisticobfuscations, exaggerations anddeceptions that convey false claims oraccusations by the perpetrator. In thatsense, the task is no different from theone that has confronted reporters onthe campaign trail since the days of thehorse-and-buggy and, more recently,the portable typewriter.In all this combat, the skill and sometimesthe audacity of the relentless conservativeassault on liberalism—makingNieman Reports / Fall 2006 85


Words & Reflections“the L-word” a dirty one—has probablybeen the centerpiece. Most politiciansof the left long ago disowned the label,many of them shying even from identifyingthemselves as progressives. And asNunberg notes, derogatory adjectivesare routinely attached, as in “phonyliberals,” “well-meaning liberals,” andso on. Not mentioned in his book wasAgnew’s pet contribution, “radicalliberals” or “radic-libs,” with whicheven some moderate Republicans, likeSenator Charles Goodell of New Yorkin 1970, were sent packing.Slightly more subtle has been thesuccessful conservative gambit of turningthe old New Deal era expression“class warfare” on its head, persuadingmany Democrats to abandon it. Insteadof Democrats crying the phrase whenthe GOP-controlled Congress enactstax cuts for the rich, the Republicansnow regularly charge any feeble lowerincomeprotest as an effort to divide thecountry by “playing the class card.”George W. Bush last year overplayedhis hand in that game with his attemptto steal the elderly vote from theDemocrats. He tried to do this withhis idea of voluntary diversion of someSocial Security payroll taxes into private-sectorstock market investments,while warning future beneficiariesthere would likely be no retirementfor them without this. When many inthe news media labeled the effort a“privatization” of the federal plan, oreven “partial privatization,” the Republicanwordsmiths hit the panic button.They turned to calling it “personal” not“private” investment, but the seniorswere already spooked.Not even Bush’s attempt to castthe gambit as part of his dream for an“ownership society,” in which the poorand the middle class could buy a pieceof America (whether they could affordany savings to invest or not), was able torescue this political fiasco. The refusalof much of the news media to parrotthis display of the administration’s linguisticdexterity probably was a factorin its demise, which in turn contributedto Bush’s second-term slide inthe polls. Other conservative effortsto peddle cockeyed euphemisms havebeen similarly transparent, includingsubstituting “death tax” for the estatetax and, in the first Bush presidency,“revenue enhancement” for the “nonew taxes” about which George W.’sfather in 1988 had invited a readingof his lips.In his book, Nunberg, a linguist whoteaches at the University of Californiaat Berkeley, focuses on the Republicans,but they have no monopoly onsleight-of-mouth, as witness Clinton’sinfamous musing on what “the meaningof ‘is’ is” or the Democrats’ knee-jerkattaching of “McCarthyism” to any mildcampaign excess. We’ve also cometo recognize that the phenomenonof saying one thing while meaningsomething else requires no party label.The military’s use of “friendly fire” and“collateral damage,” meaning “Sorry,we hit the wrong target,” is all too familiar.We hear these dodges again inthe “war on terror” that is still beingwaged after bringing about “regimechange” in Iraq, even as the UnitedStates “outsources” torture through apolicy of “redention.”“Talking Right” is a call to the“Democrat” (a favorite conservativederision) Party to sharpen its wit andits vocabulary and, more important, tofind a spokesperson who can deliverthe message in plain words that connectwith plain folks. For those of us whomonitor the words for a living, it’s atask that demands equal-opportunityscrutiny of these magicians specializingin the sale of linguistic snake oil.Reporters can’t always avoid passingon the sleazy quote, but they can—andshould—take a few words to point outthe villainy. ■Jules Witcover, a columnist syndicatedby Tribune Media Services, isthe author of 11 books on Americanpolitics and history and coauthorof five others. His most recent is amemoir entitled “The Making of anInk-Stained Wretch: Half a CenturyPounding the Political Beat.”The Making of an Obituary Writer—And a Man‘My words gave readers thousands of moments to remember of little lives well-lived.’The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the PerversePleasures of ObituariesMarilyn JohnsonHarperCollins. 244 Pages. $24.95.By Jim NicholsonWriting obituaries was never a ticket toobscurity: You had to be there to getthe job. Obit writers were kids startingout and old-timers winding down. Butit was my best job in the news business,and I’d had a lot in various reportingtreks and tumbles through newspapers,magazines and a radio station.In fact, the almost two decades whenI wrote the obit page for The PhiladelphiaDaily News might have been thebest job of any kind I ever had.Friends and family were surprisedwhen after a decade-long string ofinvestigative successes I was pulledfrom that reporting by the paper’s theneditor, Gil Spencer. My last probe in1979 (with Spencer’s initial blessing)86 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Bookswas looking into a murder in the mailroom.Years earlier Mafia-connectedloan sharks working in the mailroomhad kicked a man to death outside theback door of the Inquirer. I thoughtthis was more of the same, thougheventually the police found it to be apersonal dispute. But just weeks intomy investigation the paper’s publishergot wind of it and became unnervedand angry.When the heat came down, Spencerdidn’t just shut down the probe, heshut me down. Was this a self-fulfillingprophecy? Years earlier I’d told a fewyoung protégés that they would do wellto spend only a couple of years doinginvestigative work because “if it doesn’tburn you out, you will eventually beput out on the curb in a baggie by thevery people you work for. If you aregood enough, long enough, they willbegin to fear you.”As things turned out, however, of allthe good newspaper decisions Spencermade for the people of Philly, this one toget me off the investigative beat mighthave turned out to be one of his best.But it was years before I’d see thingsthis way. For three years I wandered thenetherworld of a newsroom outcast. Ilistened to police radios at headquarterson the “last out” (midnight toeight) shift; I created distant suburbanbureaus out of the trunk of my car, andI waited out months of being given noassignments at all.Then, in 1982, Tom Livingston, thenmanaging editor, offered me “first refusal”to be the paper’s first obit writer.I accepted on the spot. Spencer latertold me “You could have knocked meover with a feather when I heard youtook the job.” Soon I embarked on whatMarilyn Johnson, in her remarkablyvivid, illuminating and detailed bookabout this job, refers to as “The DeadBeat.” And as I started the obit job,the faces of my long-time colleaguesbetrayed expressions people can’t hidewhen looking at a terminal patient withthat “there but for the grace of God goI” look in their eyes.Despite many chances to do so in aslew of prominent interviews, includingone I did with Johnson for herbook, I am sharing details of my oddjourney to this beat for the first time in26 years, in part because the final 19years of my newspaper life more thanmade up for the rocky path I took toget there.Launching the Obit PageAt first, my reasons for taking the jobweren’t all that honorable. I saw inthe job a way to physically, politicallyand professionally put myself sevenfloors above the newsroom, in a roomotherwise unoccupied in the Inquirerbuilding’s “tower.” This was my chance,too, to get away from the city deskand special projects editors, whichover many, many years with manynewspapers had become an acquiredbitter taste.Once I began to write obits, wordsJohn McCullough, the great chief editorialwriter of the old Bulletin said to meyears earlier, came to mind: “Writingeditorials is like peeing in your pantswhile wearing a blue surge suit. It feelswarm and nobody notices.” It workedthat way with the obits at first—nobodycared, with the exception of visionaryfounder of this page, Tom Livingston,who was too busy to pay too much attention.The only ground rule we hadsettled on: “The newsroom handlesthe big guys, Nicholson writes aboutthe nobodies.”So I was on my own, a circumstancequite perilous in my younger days,but at age 40 this new beat felt likesomething I could handle with barelyany supervision. Just write stories ofpeople like myself. First come, firstserved. Let them tell it. Just arrange thewords so the obit reads well. Simple,or so it seemed. It didn’t take longfor me to cross most of the traditionallines upon which most obit pagesoperated. I started writing obits likethey were personal columns, with alot of subjective slants on philosophy,religion, cabbages and kings, all meantto enhance the life, times and characterof the deceased.My freedom to explore new groundcame about because of Zack Stalberg,the paper’s new editor. He was a Phillyrow house kid who liked the wholeconcept of a “common man” obitpage and kept the ankle-biters andminor newsroom functionaries at bay.Without “supervision” from the maineditors (Who wants the title obit editor?)or undercutting from lesser lights,the style and content were mine to set.Within a few years the page becamequite immensely popular with readersand gained national recognition.To craft the best possible obituary,I called upon every bit of skill, knowledgeand life experience I possessed,and those included private investigation,analysis, politics, religion, history,car salesman, cement finisher, oil fieldhand, city dweller, country boy, drunk,reformed drunk, dock worker, publicrelations, Sunday school teacher,military counterintelligence, and so on.There was nothing I knew, good or bad,that at some time was not brought tobear in my effort to produce the bestobituary, one that was granular andtextured by a knowing word or phrasethat only life experience provides.Even so, my wife and kids alwayssaid Dad was a Daily News “writer”and left it at that, carefully omittingthe dreaded “O” word. Why not? OurNieman Reports / Fall 2006 87


Words & Reflectionscollective self-esteem as obit writersback then was such that we didn’tdeem ourselves worthy even to organize.It took an energetic, imaginativepublic relations/public policy person,Carolyn Gilbert, who’d never been anobit writer, to found the InternationalAssociation of Obituarists at the turnof the 21st century.The Meaning of This WorkWas the “common man” obit page new?Not really. As Johnson reminds us in“The Dead Beat,” small town papersnever stopped writing them. But takingthis approach in a major marketnewspaper was likely a first, at leastin recent memory, and it brought mycraft a measure of recognition it hadbeen lacking. And it brought me thekind of fame I like best—a nationalreputation and name but letting mestill go to any restaurant and not geta good table. Perhaps most important,though, was the ripple effect ofwhat we’d done on our obit page asnewspapers throughout the countryadopted aspects of our style and, likeus, began to feature the lives and deathsof ordinary people in ways that madetheir lives special. Writers from manyof these papers make appearances in“The Dead Beat.”Obituary writing brought me muchmore than recognition or awards.When I was doing it, I was a giver. Igave the deceased a stage-center sendoffwith public recognition of theircharacter and achievements, often onethey otherwise would not have had. Igave the dead person’s family my sympathyand then a tangible remembrancefor generations unborn. My wordsgave readers thousands of momentsto remember of little lives well lived.Perhaps I even gave them the secretsof how to live one well.Somewhere along the way, I alsogave myself back to me. After nearlytwo decades of being immersed incollecting and writing of brave hearts,gentle souls and honorable lives, mycynicism—induced from some of thecareers I had—began to ebb away. Theman who retired on May 30, 2001 wasquite different than the man who arrivedin this job on October 16, 1982.When I walked away on that May afternoon,I did so believing that mostmen and women are good; most whengiven a chance will do right; most willshow honor.Imagine it is late night, about 4,000B.C. An Egyptian laborer creeps out ofhis crowded, stifling hot mud house tobreathe some fresh air and spend a fewminutes alone. The light of a sinkingmoon silhouettes a half-finished pyramid.He looks up at an immense duststorm of stars that is their backdrop andnods respectfully at the mighty hunterOrion. Then he asks himself, as he hasdone on so many nights in his lateryears, the haunting, seven-word questionasked for a millennia before thisnight and still being asked today; “Didmy being here make a difference?”Writing obituaries gave me my answer.■Jim Nicholson was the obituary pagewriter for The Philadelphia DailyNews from 1982 until 2001. Beforethat he did investigative reportingfor that paper and worked at 10newspapers, three magazines, and aradio station.Lessons of Youth Shape a Writer’s CareerIn his memoir, a sportswriter observes his life and times as he delves into issues deserving ofjournalists’ attention.Full Swing: Hits, Runs and Errors in a Writer’s LifeIra BerkowIvan R. Dee. 289 Pages. $26.By Jim KaplanIt was April 1970 in Augusta, Georgia.The azaleas were in bloom and so wasBilly Casper’s mouth. An archconservativewho would win the Masters golfchampionship that year, Casper sat inthe locker room lecturing writers onreligion, morals and public policy. Aftera while, Ira Berkow, then a 30-year-oldcolumnist for Newspaper EnterpriseAssociation (NEA), a national featuresyndicate, spoke up. “Billy,” he said,“are you comfortable saying this evenif you haven’t read widely in the subject,like from The New Republic tothe National Review?”The question was well worth asking.Just because someone is a well-knownathlete or entertainer, should he beable to sound off to the media aboutcontroversial issues in which he has noparticular expertise? And do journalistshave any obligation to air his views?On that afternoon, I looked aroundthe room at the veteran writers present.As Berkow spoke up, their eyeswidened, looking at each other withexpressions that said, “The kid is onto something.”He was, and is. After leaving NEA in1976, freelancing for four years andjoining The New York Times in 1981,Berkow was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prizein Commentary in 1988, and in 200188 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Bookshe shared a Pulitzer Prize for NationalReporting as a member of the Times’steam that did a 15-part series called“How Race Is Lived in America.” Now66, Berkow has published 17 books,written a play about his late friend andcolleague Red Smith and the scriptfor the HBO special “Champions ofAmerican Sport,” and also publishedfiction.Now he’s written “Full Swing: Hits,Runs and Errors in a Writer’s Life,” amemoir I have long hoped he’d compose.(Disclosure: Berkow has beena good friend of mine since 1967,and we coauthored a book on CaseyStengel.) Not only do his words yielda fine read, but journalistic issues heraises merit attention in newsroomsand classrooms.His Journey to JournalismBerkow’s early view of life—from asecond-floor apartment on the westside of Chicago as the son of a drycleaner who later oversaw for CookCounty the health and safety of itsemployees—did much to shape his sensibilitiesas an observer and chronicler.“I don’t remember any professionalmen—lawyers, doctors, accountants[in the neighborhood],” Berkowwrites. Instead he lived amidst a miniatureUnited Nations that includedAfrican Americans, Italians, Irish, Poles,Greeks, Puerto Ricans, and Jews likeBerkow, who is of Russian and Romanianheritage. Referring to blacks, hisfather, Harold, told Ira, “Their freedomis our freedom.” Expanding on thepoint, he added, “If you’re in a roomwith some people and the black manwalks out, and the others start talkingnegatively about him, rest assured thatwhen you walk out they’ll be sayingsimilar things about you.”Besides instilling a passion forjustice, his parents bestowed a senseof humor that has been a staple ofBerkow’s writing. In time, as Harold’sjob prospects improved, the familymoved to the city’s more respectableNorth Side. There, Berkow majored inbaseball and basketball at Sullivan HighSchool and eventually began nurturinganother talent—writing. In his juniorEnglish class, his teacher, Miss Moody,asked students to memorize and recitea poem. Berkow wrote and delivered a14-line ode to the Brooklyn Dodgers,who had won their first World Series.Refusing to believe he’d written thepoem, Miss Moody hounded him untilhe said it was Charles Dickens. Whenhis father gave him “30 Days to a MorePowerful Vocabulary” in the secondsemester of his senior year, he stunnedhis jock friends by using words suchas loquacious and ubiquitous.Though he recalls reading just threebooks in high school, Berkow was busygathering experience for many morehe’d one day write. He sold women’sstockings—three pair for a dollar—inChicago’s Maxwell Street bazaar, chanting“Wear ’em once and throw ’em away,and you still got a bargain.” Already hispersuasive interview style was forming.At 16, he was selling belts on his ownand learning never to count his moneyin public, a metaphor for protectingone’s privacy. In these transactions, helistened closely to the pitch of voices,as well as to the words, and learnedto gauge quickly what a potentialcustomer’s eyes told him.In a summer job as a garbage collector,he rode a truck with a black,an Italian, and an Irishmen. Theyconstantly bought him sodas at lunch,which Berkow thought was great untilthe black worker took him aside: “Ira,I’m telling you this because I like you,”he said. “You see how Mahoney buysdrinks, then Fiori?”“Yes,” Berkow replied.“You have to carry your weight. Youbuy when it’s your turn.”Berkow describes how this exchangewent on to inform his interviewingtechniques: “… the way he said it: ‘I’mtelling you this because I like you.’ Iwas putty in his hands.”One day Ira sat in a polling placewith his father and was astounded tohear him accuse a man of breaking hispromise to vote the straight Democraticticket. “Dad, how did you know howhe voted?” Ira asked. “You were talkingto me and not watching him.”“I saw how he voted out of the cornerof my eye.”“Oh?”“You see the curtain? It drops onlyto the ankles. If you vote the straightticket, you stand in one place andpull the lever. If you split your ticket,you have to step over to the right. Hestepped over to the right.”Even with these early lessons innuance, observation and humor, ittook Berkow some years to emergeas a writer. It wasn’t until he’d comeand gone from two universities anddone a stint in the National Guard thathe finally earned his B.A. at Miami ofOhio. There his intellectual curiositytook off, and while writing for theschool newspaper, he began a longcorrespondence with Red Smith, thena syndicated sports columnist with TheNew York Herald Tribune. Berkow, whomust save every letter and memo hereceives and story he writes, quotesfrom Smith’s advice about the joy ofdeletion and the precision of vocabulary.Perhaps it was also from exchangeswith Smith, who went on to become acolumnist with The New York Times,that Ira absorbed his kindness.Doing the JobIt is during his time at Northwestern’sMedill School of Journalism thatBerkow’s book begins to addressNieman Reports / Fall 2006 89


Words & Reflectionsissues that he and other journalistsconfront in their jobs. He recalls theday when a Medill professor told himnot to write in “dialect.” “What aboutStengelese?”—the language used byHall of Fame baseball manager CaseyStengel—he inquires of his readers.Another vexing question Berkow addressesis whether writers should quotetheir sources verbatim. In the post-JaysonBlair era, this is sacred ground injournalism; some papers now requirereporters to tape every interview anduse exact quotes. But when Ira and Italked about this, he was looking forbreathing room. “Sometimes you haveto help your source,” he told me. “Youmight say, ‘Do you mean blah-blahblah?’You don’t want to put wordsin their mouths, but you want to helpmake them more succinct, if it doesn’tdistort their viewpoint.”After Medill and a two-year stint onthe sports pages of the Minneapolis Tribune,Berkow settled in for nine yearsat NEA. There he earned a reputationas a new-breed of sportswriter: He defendedMuhammad Ali when it wasn’tpopular to do so and black athletes, ingeneral, as well as athletes who werein revolt against abusive coaches. Lessin evidence was his quirky side, but in1970 he coauthored “Rockin’ Steady:A Guide to Basketball and Cool” withNew York Knick guard Walt Frazier.Frazier was considered so quick onthe court it was said he could catch afly, so an illustration of his fly-catchingtechnique was included. Used in blackstudies curricula, “Rockin’ Steady”includes a five-chapter format basedon Strunk and White’s “The Elementsof Style.” (In a letter to Berkow, E.B.White complimented him on sentencessuch as “Sometimes they’ll come inand stand real quiet, to listen if I’mstill breathing.”)When he became a sports columnistand feature writer at The New YorkTimes, Berkow’s writing reached anew and influential audience. (Forcedto choose between the two late in hisTimes career, he left his column and returnedto writing features.) When basketballstar Isiah Thomas complainedthat “If [Larry] Bird was black, he’d bejust another good guy” rather than betreated as a superstar, Berkow’s instinctwas to defend Bird, but in a phoneconversation with Thomas, he learnedmore about the genesis of his comment.“What I was referring to,” Thomas toldhim, “was not so much Larry Bird butthe perpetuation of stereotypes aboutblacks. When Bird makes a great play,it’s due to his thinking and his workhabits. It’s all planned out by him.It’s not the case for blacks. All we dois run and jump. We never practice orgive a thought to how we play. It’s likeI came dribbling out of my mother’swomb.” Colleagues let Berkow knowthat this story influenced their coverageof black athletes; after this, manysports reporters started paying moreattention to these athletes’ work ethicand smarts.Despite never being taught at Medillanything about how to do interviews,Berkow figured out techniques thatworked with difficult interviewees,and “Full Swing” is filled with greatexamples. One of my favorites involvesWatergate Judge John Sirica,who wasn’t granting interviews duringthe congressional Watergate hearings.Berkow camped out at Sirica’s officeand introduced himself when the judgebroke for lunch.“Judge, I have just one question,”he said.“What’s that?” said Sirica.“How did it come about that [lateheavyweight champion boxer] JackDempsey was the best man at yourwedding?”“Come into my office, young man,”Sirica said, and they spoke for almosttwo hours.Approaching Barry Bonds, the oftenhostileslugger suspected of steroidand human growth hormone abuse,Berkow said, “I covered your fatherwhen he was a rookie.” Bonds and hetalked for 30 minutes.Adapting a lesson from his daysworking on the garbage truck, Berkowexplained his interviewing techniquein a conversation we had: “Try to saysomething positive without beingoverly flattering. But it helps to beprepared. I wanted to ask a veteranpitcher something. ‘Congratulationson a good season,’ I said. ‘I’m havinga horseshit season,’ he replied. I hadto gather myself for a second. I said,‘Hey, look, you’re in the major leagues.Any season is a good one.’”Nor does Berkow shrink from talkingabout the tough times he encounteredat the Times. At length, he delves into adispute about a column he’d written inFebruary 2003. In it he quoted severalformer college coaches speaking out inopposition to the death penalty—theywere much better informed about theissue than Billy Casper had been. Twomonths later Berkow was named inan editor’s note and accused of usingtwo passages “similar in language andconcept” to a Chicago Tribune story.He was never asked by editors whoprepared the note about his reporting.Had the editors talked with him,Berkow would have told them thathis quotations came directly from hisinterviews. They didn’t, and the notewas published. As Berkow observes in“Full Swing,” to many Times’ staffers,this editor’s note was an egregiousoverreaction in the wake of the JaysonBlair scandal. Berkow’s exchangeswith the paper’s top editors aboutthis situation make for instructive andinteresting reading.Since Berkow appreciated RedSmith’s nitpicking, here is some ofmine: “Disinterested” means neutral,not uninterested. “Save for” seems toostiff; “except for” is better. Except forthese few missteps, Berkow’s life andtimes, lessons learned and techniquestried adds up to words well chosenabout a journey well worth takingwith him. ■Jim Kaplan was a Sports Illustratedwriter and is the author of 16 books,including “The Gospel According toCasey: Casey Stengel’s Inimitable,Instructional, Historical BaseballBook,” which he coauthored with IraBerkow.90 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Nieman NotesCompiled by Lois FiorePoet Donald Hall Inspires Nieman Fellows‘… even under the tyranny of daily deadlines, journalists can help themselves bythinking like a poet.’By Mike PrideAmerica’s new poet laureate,Donald Hall, has been the NiemanFellows’ poet laureate formore than a decade. He makes an annualpilgrimage to One Francis Avenueto answer this question: What can journalistslearn from a poet? Quite a lot,it turns out, about both their craft andthe poet’s realm.I have known Donfor more than 25years, and for nearlyall his visits to theLippmann House,I have served as hischauffeur, introducerand trusty sidekick. Inaddition, since 1979Don has often visitedwith my news staff atthe Concord Monitorfor brown-baglunches. Combiningthese sessions withthe Nieman visits, Ihave probably heardDon discuss poetryand writing with journalists20 times.These sessions arealways pleasing andnever routine. Journalistswant to hear all kinds of thingsfrom Donald Hall.At one Nieman session an editorfrom the New Yorker asked him if itwas true that being a poet helped aman meet women. Don answeredthat he took up his pen as a youngman because he had been cut fromthe baseball team and maybe writingwould make the cheerleaders likehim—no, love him. Knowing Don as Ido, I understood that this answer wasonly partly tongue in cheek.A fellow at the same session hadjust read a new biography that portrayedthe English poet Philip Larkinas a scoundrel. The fellow asked DonDonald Hall at his home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, when he was named thenew poet laureate of the United States. Photo by Ken Williams/Concord Monitor.if Larkin’s wretchedness as a personshould change the way readers viewhis poetry. No, Don said, you couldprobably distill to minutes and secondsthe portion of a poet’s lifetime duringwhich he created the poems that madehis reputation. The rest of the time thepoet might have been sticking up fillingstations or intentionally running overcats with his automobile. “Trust thepoems, not the poet,” Don said.Revisiting WordsDon almost always brings some of hisown poems in progress to read to thefellows. He is obsessive about revision,sometimes writingmore than 100 draftsof a poem and numberingeach. Thus atthe top of a draft youmight see “Weeds andPeonies/93” and thinkthat Don numbershis works as somemodern artists do. Infact, it is draft No. 93of the poem.As I left my firstinterview with Don in1981, he gave me anearly collection called“The Alligator Bride.”In the inscription, hedirected me to a poemcalled “The Man in theDead Machine,” sayingit was one of hisfavorites. I opened tothis poem and foundthat he had revised it in red ink righton the page of my book. A couple ofyears later, while introducing him tomy editors and reporters, I told themabout his obsession with revision, andI brought the book along to show themthe red ink. Don reached up, took thebook from my hand and wrote in hislatest revisions in black ink.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 91


Nieman NotesJournalists, of course, lack the luxuryof perpetual revision, although manyof us, particularly early in our careers,have surely longed to follow our newspapercarriers around in the morningto correct in each paper the error thatoccurred to us too late and now appearsunder our byline. But even under thetyranny of daily deadlines, journalistscan help themselves by thinking like apoet. What Don often seeks in revisionis precise language. On this score, thereare useful aphorisms that I have heardhim offer more than once at Niemangatherings: “There are no synonyms.”“All adjectives limit.” A Nieman Fellowonce asked Don if he consideredhimself a regional poet. I was seatedbeside Don and felt the earthrumble beneath my chair. “Anykind of label is diminishing,”he said.In this age of accountability,or at least the quest for it, morethan one Nieman class has takenup the most elemental issueof all: What are your aims as apoet, and how do you measurewhether you have achievedthem? Don’s answer one yearbegan with what a poem is not.It is not an explanation, an argumentor an idea, he said. Ratherit is a creation that he hopes istrue to the emotions—mainlyhis emotions but the reader’s aswell. A poem is also a quest forbeauty but not just for beauty’ssake. It is communication; itseeks a connection.Fellows often ask Don aboutRobert Frost, just as reporterswriting about him being namednational poet laureate this pastJune almost inevitably comparedhim with Frost. Don haslived with this question, and contemplatedthe work of Frost, for 60 years.He regularly raises his assessment ofhow many great poems Frost wrote.“Every time I look up, he has writtenanother one,” he once said.Don appreciates Frost for his stubbornnessand his fierce will to survive.He sees a personal parallel with Frostin that they both moved to northernNew England from someplace else. Thislast has an advantage, allowing the poetto be “the outsider who picks thingsup,” as Don once put it. On the otherhand, Don wrote much of his poetry infree verse because whenever he wrotein iambic pentameter, he worried thathe was imitating Frost. Free verse wastruly liberating for him.Listening to WordsA sense of place is important in thepoetry of both Frost and Hall, andS UMMER K I TC H E N 1By Donald HallIn June’s high light she stood at the sinkWith a glass of wine,And listened for the bobolink,And crushed garlic in late sunshine.I watched her cooking, from my chair.She pressed her lipsTogether, reaching for kitchenware,And tasted sauce from her fingertips.“It’s ready now. Come on,” she said.“You light the candle.”We ate, and talked, and went to bed,And slept. It was a miracle.both were attracted to elegy. But to me,the clearest comparison of Frost withHall is in the central role of sound intheir poetry. As Don sees it, Frost tookpleasure in saying things as no one hadever said them before. “He wants twothings at once: the sound of speechand absolute metrical regularity.” Frostused the sounds of sentences to capturecharacter. Don encourages those whoask about Frost to read “Home Burial”carefully to detect Frost’s use of soundto convey the male and female qualitiesof his speakers.To understand of the central importanceof sound to Don’s own work, youonly had to be present during his sessionwith the Nieman Fellows this year.The exchange began when CuratorBob Giles asked Hall about “SummerKitchen,” a lovely poem in which thenarrator looks from another room intothe kitchen and sees his wife lickingtomato sauce from her fingertips. ToBob, it was a scene told througha poet’s eyes, much as an artistmight observe and paint it. No,no, not at all, Don replied. Thepoem began with sounds. Andwithout referring to the text herattled off the long vowel soundsof “Summer Kitchen”—“high,light, wine, sunshine”—andspoke of his pleasure in working“candle” and “miracle” into therhyme scheme. With a poem,he said, if you toil to get thesounds right, the scenes andthe narrative will take care ofthemselves.Of course, journalists cannotadopt such an attitude, trustingthat if the sound of whatthey write is true, the contentof their stories will follow. Donbrags to reporters and editorsabout the lies in his work, implicitlyarguing that this lying isessential to achieving art’s largertruth. Information is the enemyof art, he likes to say. And yeteven though information is theessence of our work, we’ve all had theexperience of reading a news story andrealizing that the writing is exceptional.A closer look usually shows that thewriter has a special consciousness ofthe sounds of the words on the page.1“Summer Kitchen,” from “White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006 byDonald Hall. Copyright © 2006 by Donald Hall. Reprinted by permission of Houghton MifflinCompany. All rights reserved.92 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Nieman NotesIt is one thing we mean when we saya reporter has a good ear.Sound is also an issue that Don raisesin talking about poetry in translation.Having traveled widely, he is alwaysinterested in the foreign Nieman Fellows,and they in him. Don’s late wife,Jane Kenyon, translated poems by AnnaAkhmatova, and they went to China,India and elsewhere together to sharetheir poems. At Nieman gatherings,the question about foreign poetry isoften why so much is lost in translation.Don’s answer begins with thesound, an impossible challenge foreven the most gifted translator. It alsoincludes the subtleties of language andculture that almost no foreign readercould know.Perhaps my favorite subject in Don’stalks with journalists is the dead metaphor.A dead metaphor is a word weuse, often a verb and usually for the sakeof colorful writing, that no longer callsto mind the word’s actual meaning.Overuse has killed the comparison.Once, a journalist asked Don forsome examples of dead metaphors. Hepicked up a copy of that day’s ConcordMonitor and turned to the editorial,which, as it happened, I had written.In no time he had zeroed in on (deadmetaphor—or “DM,” as Don is fond ofmarking them in text) the verb “trigger.”I had used it in a sentence thatsaid some action “triggered a discussion.”Of course, no one reading thisverb would think of an actual triggerand, if a reader did, the associationwould be comical, raising the thoughtof people willing to talk only with agun to their heads.Because poetry is the purest formof verbal expression, Don is alwaysquick to condemn dead metaphors inpoems. In journalism, because we arewriting the first rough draft of history,we are highly susceptible to using deadmetaphors. Don’s point is that beingaware of this tendency should make usthink twice about them and be moreprecise in our language.I hope I have not left the impressionthat listening to Don is an exercise intaking lessons from a poet. Any NiemanFellow who has sat with him willtell you that these sessions enlightenand amuse far beyond practical considerations.Poetry is a pleasure of themouth. Poets labor in a centuries-oldtradition that modern life has expandedin both form and content. In samplingthis pleasure and these traditions, thefellows have delighted in their worthylaureate for many years. ■Mike Pride, a 1985 Nieman Fellow, isthe editor of the Concord Monitor. Healso has coauthored, with Steve Raymond,“Too Dead to Die: A Memoir ofBataan and Beyond.”—1943—Erwin W. Kieckhefer, former editorialpage editor at The (Memphis)Commercial Appeal, died of cancer July19th in Lombard, Illinois. He was 91.Kieckhefer was born in Milwaukee,Wisconsin in 1915 and attended theUniversity of Wisconsin, where he wasnight editor at The Daily Cardinal. In1936 he began his newspaper careeras a copyeditor for the MilwaukeeSentinel. He then joined United PressAssociations (now UPI) in 1937, wherehe was a reporter and copyeditor inMilwaukee and on staff at United PressCentral Division headquarters in Chicagofrom 1938 until 1941.Kieckhefer also held positions withthe Minneapolis Star, the LouisvilleCourier-Journal, and the Daily Plainsmanin Huron, South Dakota, where heaccepted a position as editor in 1959.According to UPI, he left the Plainsmanin 1960 to join Representative GeorgeMcGovern’s Senate campaign. Followingthe election until his retirementin 1983, he served as editorial writerand opinion page editor of The CommercialAppeal.Kieckhefer was the author of “TheCastrated Beaver,” a book on Canada—a topic on which he was considered anexpert—and Canadian-U.S. relations.He is survived by two children, fivegrandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.—1951—Simeon Booker was inducted intothe National Press Club’s Golden Owlson May 18th in Washington, D.C., anhonor given only after 50 years ofcontinued service, which Booker hascompleted with Jet magazine.At a reception at his company’s officein Washington, friends and colleagueshonored Booker’s career as D.C. bureauchief and war correspondent.In attendance were Mayor AnthonyWilliams, Democratic and Republicanparty officials, Ambassador Ruth Davis,the first black woman foreign servicedirector, and Carol, his wife of 30 years,who is the general counsel of the U.S.Broadcasting Board of Governors.Booker credits his accomplishmentto the late John H. Johnson, founder ofthe Johnson Publishing Company, andhis Nieman Fellow colleagues.At Jet magazine, Booker has coveredcivil rights events in the South, the EmmettTill murder case, and the Vietnamand Granada wars. Booker was the firstblack journalist to win the NationalPress Club’s Fourth Estate Award.—1956—Julius Duscha’s memoir, “From PeaSoup to Politics: How a Poor MinnesotaBoy Became a Washington Insider,” waspublished in October 2005 by iUniverse,Inc. In it Duscha chronicles growingup during the Great Depression, thestart of his journalistic career at age 18as a reporter for the St. Paul PioneerPress and Dispatch, transitioning toWashington, and the many politicalevents he witnessed and reported onin his more than 60 years as a nationalpolitical reporter.Duscha has written for The New YorkTimes, The Washington Post, and severalmagazines, including Reporter and Progressivein the 1960’s and more recentlyHarper’s and The Atlantic Monthly. Heserved as a president of the AmericanSociety of Newspaper Editors, directorNieman Reports / Fall 2006 93


Nieman Notesof the Washington Journalism Center(1968-1990), and editor of The HartfordCourant, among other positions. Otherpublications by Duscha include “Taxpayers’Hayride: The Farm Problem fromthe New Deal to the Billie Sol Estes Case”(1964), “Arms, Money and Politics: TheEconomics and Politics of the DefenseProgram” (1965), and a syndicatedcolumn on public affairs. Duscha andthree other Post reporters shared theSigma Delta Chi Award for DistinguishedWashington Correspondence for a seriesof articles on key advisors to PresidentsKennedy and Nixon.—1961—John Pomfret writes: “‘ChineseLessons: Five Classmates and the Storyof the New China’ was published inAugust by Henry Holt and Company.‘Chinese Lessons’ traces the lives offive Chinese men and women withwhom I went to university in Nanjingfrom 1980-’82, using their successes,failures, loves, fears, mistresses, children,beliefs and dreams as a vehiclefor telling a broader story in China:the reform period [June 4, 1989], hyper-capitalism,today’s moral vacuum.Reviews in The New York Times, TheWall Street Journal, and Los AngelesTimes have been excellent.”“Chinese Lessons” is available at adiscount at www.amazon.com. If youwant to read more about it or findout where John Pomfret is speakingabout the book, please visit www.johnpomfret.netPomfret, a former Beijing bureauchief, is now Los Angeles bureau chieffor The Washington Post. In 2003 hewas awarded the Asia Society’s OsbornElliott Prize for Excellence in AsianJournalism. “Chinese Lessons” is hisfirst book.—1964—Jim McCartney tells of an unusualNieman gathering in France: “A remarkablerepresentation of four NiemanFellow alumni (one actually was analumnae) attended a ceremony inthe tiny village of Le Thor, France onJune 19th in which a public squareNieman Fellows Jim McCartney, Bud Korengold, Molly Sinclair McCartney, and WayneKelley (from the left) in Le Thor, France, for the dedication of a public square honoringthe memory of the late Pierre Salinger.was dedicated to the memory of thelate Pierre Salinger, John F. Kennedy’spress secretary. From the class of l964were Wayne Kelley, Bud (Robert J.)Korengold, and me. And from theclass of l978 was my wife, Molly [Sinclair].Korengold, Kelley and I hadknown Salinger—Molly came alongfor the ride. Korengold (see Niemanclass notes Summer 2006) had probablyknown him best when he was ahigh-level government spokesman inseveral U.S. embassies. I had knownhim as a Washington correspondentfor the late and lamented ChicagoDaily News in covering the l960 electioncampaign and the Kennedy WhiteHouse. It was Salinger, in fact, to whomI owed a special debt: He introducedme to Kennedy. The dedication was arather bizarre occasion. Salinger andhis (fourth) wife had moved to Le Thor,which is near Avignon, in 2000, and hehad become one of its most prominentcitizens. He died in October of 2004.The four of us had decided to attendthe ceremony after discovering thatwe were all, by coincidence, goingto be in the south of France on thatparticular day.“To bring you up to date on myselfand Molly: We now live on Anna MariaIsland, on the west coast of Florida,just north of Sarasota. After retiring (inl990) as a Washington correspondentand columnist for Knight Ridder newspapersI began teaching at GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, D.C., whileMolly continued working as a reporterfor The Washington Post and later asmanager of public relations for theAmerican Petroleum Institute. WhenMolly retired we moved to Florida.I have continued to teach in Floridaand am now teaching courses for thePierian Spring Academy, in Sarasota,and for the Longboat Key EducationCenter, which is close by. I am alsowriting a monthly column for the localnewspaper, the Bradenton Herald.Molly has kept busy as president ofthe condominium in which we live. Ishould also mention that one of ourneighbors in the condominium is theabove-mentioned Wayne Kelley. WeNiemans stick together.”—1965—Alex W. Maldonado’s new book,“Luis Munoz Marin: Puerto Rico’s DemocraticRevolution” was published bythe University of Puerto Rico EditorialPress. Maldonado writes: “The book is abiography of Puerto Rico’s first electedgovernor (1948). It is the story of theachievements and controversies of Munoz(1898-1980), dismissed as a hope-94 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Nieman Notesless Bohemian, transforming himself tobecome the architect of modern PuertoRico, leading a profound political andeconomic transformation of this U.S.Commonwealth. Munoz also becamea major influence in Latin America’sdemocratic left and in President JohnF. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress.”Maldonado is also the author of “TeodoroMoscoso and Puerto Rico’sOperation Bootstrap.” He has been ajournalist since 1959, reporter, editorand publisher of island newspapers,and currently writes a column for theSan Juan Star.—1980—Jan Collins, class scribe, sends alongsome news from the class of 1980:Daniel Passent has a new book outentitled (in English) “Every Day Notes.”It’s in the form of a diary for 2005.“It sold quite well,” says Daniel, “waseven for a few weeks on the bestsellerlist. My previous book, ‘DiplomaticDisease,’ about my years as ambassadorof Poland to Chile, was a realbestseller,” he writes. “I continue mybiweekly column in Polityka weeklyand I’ve started a blog on the Internet(www.polityka.pl).” Best of all, writesDaniel, daughter Agata (Harvard Classof 1995, cum laude) “gave birth to herfirst son and my first grandson, JacobPassent-Wieteska,” on June 24, 2006.”Agata, who accompanied her parentsto Cambridge during Daniel’s Niemanyear, is a well-known journalist in herown right in Poland.Judy Stoia writes that her “Betweenthe Lions” show for kids on PBS has“just received funding for four moreyears of production.” The show, aimedat children ages 4 to 7, uses puppetry,animation and live action to help youngchildren learn to read. “I became interestedin the project [several years ago]because of the enormous problem ofilliteracy and also because I was drawnto the challenge of how to use televisionto teach reading,” Judy says. “Along theway, I became deeply interested in theissue of illiteracy in the rural South.We have done a tremendous amountof research in Mississippi and hope todiscover ways in which our materialscan be adapted to these very low-performingpopulations …. There’s also agreat film in all this; I just need to findsomeone to do it.” [See Stoia’s articleon page 83.]Lynda McDonnell is executivedirector of a training and mentoringjournalism program for Minnesota highschool students, particularly studentsof color. “We serve about 400 studentsa year through our summer camps,after-school classes and workshops,a career fair and in-classroom work,”Lynda writes. “And it’s working. About20 graduates of our summer programare studying journalism in college. Infact, five are working as interns in TwinCities newsrooms this summer.” Theprogram’s name is being changed thisfall to “ThreeSixty: Growing Journalists/ExpandingPerspectives” In othernews, Lynda writes that her husband,Steve Brandt, who accompaniedLynda to Cambridge for her Niemanyear and who is a reporter at the StarTribune, won the David Graven Awardthis past spring—Minnesota’s lifetimeachievement award for public affairsreporting. Lynda and Steve invitefriends to visit them at their “wonderfullittle [vacation] cabin in westernWisconsin, where the hiking and bikingare great.”—1981—Doug Marlette’s second novel,“Magic Time,” was published in Septemberby Farrar, Straus and Giroux.“With the new-found flexibility ofan empty nester I accepted a visitingprofessorship at the University of Oklahomajournalism school where I teachhumor writing and a course on editorialcartoons as a window into values,”Marlette writes. “Then serendipitously,at a time of dwindling opportunities inmy beleaguered profession, I was offeredthe editorial cartoonist positionat the blessedly family-owned TulsaWorld. Just an itinerant cartoon worker,following the chuckles harvests, season-to-season,town-to-town.“The novel, ‘Magic Time,’ is rootedI suppose in having grown up a whiteboy in Mississippi during the early ’60’switnessing the most significant story ofmy generation from the wrong side ofthe moral bleachers. I had already begunwriting ‘Magic Time’ when I mentionedto my father a couple of yearsago that I was going down to Mississippito do some research on freedom summer,1964. ‘Remember the murders ofGoodman, Schwerner and Chaney?’ Isaid, and explained that I was going toattend the 40th anniversary observanceof their deaths. To which my 82-yearoldfather replied, ‘Yes, I remember.I was involved in the search for theirbodies.’ Hooo-kayyyy!“My father had been a Marine Corpslifer stationed in Laurel, Mississippi,at the time that the military and theNational Guard were called up to trollthe bogues of Neshoba County forthe victims’ bodies, as memorializedin the film ‘Mississippi Burning.’ Hewas typical of many Southern whites,not sympathetic to the movement butno Kluxer either. He was a law-abidingcitizen who was simply doing hisduty when his government asked himto help the FBI find the missing civilrights workers.“Similarly, I had no idea growingup that my grandmother had beenbayoneted by a National Guardsmanin the great textile strike known asthe Uprising of ’34, and my discovery,at the age of 40, that the blue-haired,snuff-dipping dominatrix of my childhoodwas considered a working-classhero in some circles led me to writemy first novel, ‘The Bridge.’ My familyreminds me of Forrest Gump, whowas always present at these significantmoments, major historical events ofthe 20th century, yet was unaware oftheir significance to the nation at thetime. Maybe my impulse to write issome genetic drive to piece togetherthe puzzle.“After the dust-up over the autobiographicalcontent of my first novel,‘The Bridge,’ I was motivated in mysecond novel, ‘Magic Time,’ to createa character like Carter Ransom, whohas such elegance, gravitas and noblesseoblige that he would never bemistaken for me.”Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 95


Nieman Notes—1982—Steve Oney’s article, “Fallen Angel,”will appear in “Best AmericanSports Writing 2006” to be publishedin October by Houghton Mifflin. Thestory, which originally appeared in LosAngeles magazine, details the rise andfall of the Los Angeles Angels baseballplayer Bo Belinsky, who in 1962 pitchedCalifornia’s first major league no-hitter.A playboy and bon vivant, Belinskydated such movie stars as Ann-Margretand Connie Stevens before descendinginto alcoholism and cocaine addictionand drifting from Hollywood to Hawaiito Las Vegas, where at the end of his lifehe embraced Christianity and overcamehis dependencies. Oney is a seniorwriter at Los Angeles magazine.—1983—Huntly Collins writes, “In August,I will begin a full-time job as assistantprofessor of journalism at La SalleUniversity in Philadelphia. In additionto teaching reporting and writing,I’ve been charged with creating afull-fledged journalism program in theuniversity’s Communication Department,which has largely been focusedon film, television, public relations, andinterpersonal communication.“I am thrilled with the appointmentand consider it both a privilege and achallenge to create a journalism programat a time when the profession isat a crossroads. While I have both legsfirmly planted in the principles thatundergird good journalism no matterwhat the venue, I look forward to engagingthe ‘new journalism’ and doingmy part to help harness its powers forthe public good.“La Salle has about 6,000 students,most of them white working class andmany the first in their families to attendcollege. I like their grit and the ethosof the university, which was foundedby the Christian Brothers, an order ofCatholic laymen. There’s a strong commitmentto social justice, which I hopeto use as a bridge to get kids out intothe surrounding community, which islargely poor and black, and reportingabout issues that matter.“In addition to teaching at La Salle,I will be continuing my work with reporterscovering AIDS in developingcountries and in minority communitiesin the United States. In May, I ranAIDS reporting workshops at threeuniversities in China. I came away witha much more nuanced understandingof the Chinese media (it isn’t all underthe thumb of the central government)and with enormous respect for theChinese journalists who are pushingthe envelope at great risk to themselvesand their publications.“Esther is doing well and so is ourdaughter, Qian, who is now 12 goingon 22. She is away for two weeks at herfirst overnight camp, one of those watershedevents that is probably harderfor us than for her! It’s been awfullyquiet around here with her gone.”Guy Gugliotta has taken a buyoutfrom The Washington Post and willwrite as a freelancer. He and his wife,Carla Anne Robbins, NF ’90, willbe moving to the New York City region,where Robbins is now assistanteditorial page editor of The New YorkTimes.—1984—D’Vera Cohn writes, “After 21 yearsas a Washington Post reporter, mainlyspent writing about demographics andwildlife, I’ve accepted a buyout thatwas too good to turn down at a timewhen I’m ready to make a change. I’mplanning to do think-tank work on demographics,to write a children’s bookabout the pandas at the National Zoo,and to do some freelance writing.”—1985—Mike Pride, editor of the ConcordMonitor, has coauthored a memoir ofthe Bataan Death March with SteveRaymond, a 90-year-old retired journalistfrom Lecanto, Florida. Raymondsurvived the march and three and ahalf years as a prisoner of war in thePhilippines and Japan. Pride helpedRaymond compile an old manuscriptdrawn from diaries into a narrativeof Raymond’s experience. The title is“Too Dead to Die: A Memoir of Bataanand Beyond.” [See Pride’s article onpage 91.]Zwelakhe Sisulu’s business, SisuluMedia Group, has bought an interestin FUSE Communication, a full-servicemarketing and communicationagency with offices in North America,Europe and South Africa. The interestinvolved is in FUSE’s South Africanbusiness. FUSE Communication willkeep its name, with Sisulu becomingnon-executive chairman.Sisulu has been a journalist in SouthAfrica since the 1970’s, when he wasimprisoned during the apartheid erafor his writings and political activities.After a time as editor of the New NationNewspaper, he joined the South AfricanBroadcasting Corporation in 1994 aschief executive officer. He was awardedthe Presidential Award in 1998.In the announcement of this newarrangement, Nick Matthews, currentchief executive, said “… Sisulu MediaGroup’s considerable experience andexpertise in television and media willhelp us develop and deliver TV productionand media across the wholeAfrican continent from our base herein South Africa.”Sisulu commented: “This transactionis taking place at the time that SouthAfrica and the continent are engagedin preparations to host the 2010 FIFAWorld Cup. We are confident that themarketing communications know-howthat our partners bring from Europeand the United States, combined withour own expertise, will place us bothin a position where we can greatly assistin the task of communicating thismost important event.”—1986—Frank Sotomayor has been namedsenior fellow of the University of SouthernCalifornia’s Annenberg’s Institutefor Justice and Journalism. He is also anadjunct professor and writing coach atUSC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.For 35 years Sotomayor worked at theLos Angeles Times, including 18 yearsas an assistant Metro editor. In 1984he was coeditor and a writer on the96 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Nieman Notesseries “Latinos in Southern California,”for which the Times won the PulitzerPrize for Public Service. Steve Montiel,director of the Institute for Justice andJournalism, writes that Sotomayor is“a longtime leader of efforts to bringracial diversity to news media. His expertisewill enable us to improve andexpand resources for journalists, educatorsand students.” Sotomayor wasa cofounder of the Robert C. MaynardInstitute for Journalism Education andthe California Chicano News MediaAssociation and, in 2002, was namedto the National Association of HispanicJournalists’ Hall of Fame.—1988—Agnes Bragadottir, senior businesswriter with Morgunbladid in Reykjavik,Iceland, brings us up to date on herwork:“I was news editor of Morgunbladidfrom 1995 to 2003. In 2003 and 2004I was the spokesperson for the SriLanka Monitoring Mission, a Nordicpeacekeeping force in Sri Lanka thatoversees the maintenance of the ceasefire agreement between the Tamils andSinhalese in Sri Lanka. On returning toIceland, I took over the post of businesseditor of Morgunbladid and heldthat post through 2005. For now, I amsenior business writer, mainly focusingon news analyses about banking andbusiness in Iceland and Europe.”—1990—Carla Anne Robbins is now assistanteditorial page editor of The NewYork Times. She had been a reporterand news editor at The Wall Street Journalsince 1993. She was the Journal’slead foreign policy writer and editedfeature articles on foreign policy, defenseand national security for theirWashington bureau. From 1986-1992,Robbins was with U.S. News & WorldReport, first as Latin America bureauchief and then as senior diplomatic correspondent.In 2003 she received theGeorgetown University Weintal Prizefor Diplomatic Reporting and, whileat the Journal, was a member of theteam that received the 2000 PulitzerDavid Heath, center, NF ’06, gestures to Joel Greenberg, NF ’91, at a reception duringthe 2006 Nieman class trip to Israel.Prize for National Reporting and theteam that won the 1999 Pulitzer forInternational Reporting. Her husband,Guy Gugliotta, NF ’83, took a buyoutfrom The Washington Post and will befreelancing.—1994—Lorie Conway is producing “Fear& Fever on Ellis Island” (the workingtitle) for her company, Boston Film andVideo Productions. This is the first filmand book to be published about the EllisIsland immigrant hospital. The film’scompanion book will be published bySmithsonian Books in October 2007.The film will be broadcast in late fallor early 2008 with a shorter versionshown at the Ellis Island Museum. [SeeConway’s article on page 71.]—1995—Paul Stoop, upon visiting the UnitedStates this summer, wrote from Brooklyn,New York to say that he and hiswife, Adelheid, are in good health andthat he has changed jobs.“Half a year ago I started as headof communications at the WZB, theSocial Science Research Center Berlin,Europe’s largest institution ofits kind—independent research onsocial issues, mobility, public health,international conflicts, governanceand civil society (www.wz-berlin.de).Challenging, of course, since it’s a largeinstitution (300 people, 150 being researchers),but rewarding. One of mytasks is publishing a quarterly that hassome similarities to Nieman Reports.It is sent for free to interested publicin the media, administrations, NGO’sand researchers. Total circulation isaround 10,000.“This is my first vacation, and I amusing it to see friends in New Yorkand go kayaking in Vermont (withEd Koren, the great cartoonist). LakeChamplain is waiting, and the forecastlooks good.”Stoop was formerly deputy directorof the American Academy in Berlin.—1999—Maria Lourdes (Malou) Mangahasjoined GMA Network Inc. as vicepresident for research and contentdevelopment and editor in chief forGMA News’s Web site, www.gmanews.tv. Her position will also involve leadingthe research team of GMA’s newsand public affairs and maintaining theGMA news training program.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 97


Nieman NotesGMA Network’s senior vice presidentfor news and public affairs, Marissa L.Flores, cited Mangahas’s “excellentskills in investigative journalism andwealth of experience in newsgatheringand newsroom management” as reasonsfor her appointment. “GMA newsand public affairs has always believedthat the richness of content, adherenceto the highest ethical standards, andjournalism at its best will sustain ourleadership in the industry. And havingMalou in our team further boosts ourcampaign to meet these ideals,” saidFlores.Mangahas is a former executive producerwith the GMA news and publicaffairs program, “Debate with Mare AtPare.” She was also employed by thenetwork as a training consultant. Priorto working for GMA news and publicaffairs, she was editor in chief of TheManila Times. Mangahas is a cofounderof the Philippine Center for InvestigativeJournalism.—2001—Ron Stodghill, II, a former senioreditor with Fortune Small Business,has accepted a position with The NewYork Times as feature writer for theSunday Business section. BusinessEditor Tim O’Brien announced he was“overjoyed” to have a “gifted, sensitivenarrative writer … an imaginative, collegial,sharp-minded journalist withwonderful ideas and an intuitive senseof how to structure them and makethem come alive” join current featurewriter Gary Rivlin.Stodghill has held positions at theOakland Press, Charlotte Observer,Business Week, the Detroit Free Press,and Time. Prior to joining FortuneSmall Business, he was editor in chiefof Savoy magazine.—2003—Bryan Monroe, president of theNational Association of Black Journalists,was appointed vice presidentand editorial director of Ebony andJet magazines, effective August 1st.Monroe was formerly vice presidentfor news at Knight Ridder and servedas part of the Sun Herald team thatearned this year’s Pulitzer Prize forPublic Service for its Hurricane Katrinacoverage. He also received the Awardof Valor from the National Associationfor Minority Media Executives.“I welcome the opportunity to workwith these icons that I’ve known all mylife and to help create a new chapter intheir history,” Monroe was quoted in anews release. “I look forward to makingJet even more cutting-edge in its newscoverage and expanding even more onEbony’s legacy and excellence.”Monroe’s newly created positionwith Johnson Publishing Company,parent company of Ebony and Jet, willinclude assessing coverage, design anddirection of both magazines, said theircompany spokesman.Monroe spent 16 years at variousKnight Ridder papers including theSan Jose Mercury News, where he wasdeputy managing editor, among otherpositions.Geoff Nyarota, founding editorof the Daily News in Zimbabwe, haspublished a book. “Against the Grain:Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman,”published by Zebra Press in July,chronicles the decline of Zimbabweunder Robert Mugabe’s regime anddetails Nyarota’s many clashes withthe government—including arrests,intimidation, legal fees, and ultimatelya contract on his life—that led him intoexile while searching for ways to exposea corrupt government and implementa free press in Zimbabwe.Nyarota is a visiting professor ofpolitical studies and human rights atBard College. He also offers courses toinmates earning degrees through theBard Prison Initiative program. He hasbeen a fellow at the Carr Center forHuman Rights Policy at Harvard andhas been awarded nine internationaljournalism awards, including the 2002Golden Pen of Freedom and UNESCO’sGuillermo Cano World Press FreedomAward.—2005—Joshua Hammer, a former Newsweekcorrespondent, has a new bookout, “Yokohama Burning: The Deadly1923 Earthquake and Fire That HelpedForge the Path to World War II,” publishedby Free Press. The book tellsthe story of what is considered theworst natural disaster of the 20th century—earthquakes,fires and tsunamisthat took place in September 1923 thatdestroyed Yokohama, most of Tokyo,and that killed 140,000 people duringtwo days.Hammer, who was at Newsweekfor almost 18 years, is now a full-timeauthor and freelance magazine writerbased in South Africa. He has writtentwo other books, “Chosen By God: ABrother’s Journey,” and “A Season inBethlehem: Unholy War in a SacredPlace.”—2006—Chris Cobler is now the first Interactivedivision publisher of GreeleyPublishing Company and its parentcompany, Swift Communications, Inc.Cobler began his new position uponreturning to Colorado after his Niemanyear.“I’m excited by the chance to usetechnology to serve northern Coloradoand all of Swift’s communitieseven better,” Cobler said in a newsrelease. “Newspapers can innovate inways that were unthinkable less thana generation ago.”Cobler was formerly editor of TheGreeley Tribune.Beena Sarwar will return to Cambridgein September for a yearlongfellowship with the Carr Center forHuman Rights Policy at the KennedySchool of Government. She will beworking on a book on human rightsand gender activism in Pakistan. Shehas worked as op-ed and features editorof The News International, editorof The News on Sunday, producer atGeo TV News, and on several documentaryfilms. ■98 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


Nieman NotesLetters to the EditorTo the Editor:In your June 2006 issue, MexicoCity newspaper editor RaymundoRiva-Palacio makes the argument,rightly, that Mexican reporters areself-censoring to protect themselvesagainst retaliation by the drug cartels.But in building his argument,Riva destroys the reputation of onereporter who covered the drug cartels,Alfredo Jiménez Mota.Alfredo was an investigativereporter who covered organizedcrime for El Imparcial, in theprovincial capital of Hermosillo,Sonora. He disappeared April 2,2005 after meeting with an officialfrom the federal prosecutor’s office.Riva claims that a drug cartelfed information to Alfredo, andthe rival cartel retaliated againstthe reporter. However, he fails toattribute this information to anysource leaving open what I see asa strong possibility that this allegationis not true.In his article, “Self-Censorshipas a Reaction to Murders by DrugCartels,” published in Nieman Reports(Summer 2006), Riva wrote:“Federal authorities investigatingthe crime didn’t know that Jimenezwas fed information from a rivalcartel to damage its enemy and,when the ‘enemy’ found out theoriginal source of information, theyare presumed to have murderedhim.”With these few words, Rivadamages the integrity of a youngreporter who worked hard touncover the connections betweenthe authorities in the state and thedrug cartels that operate in Sonora.Instead, Riva paints a picture of areporter who was conned by drugtraffickers.This type of misinformation,dropped so casually in the middleof a longer story, only makesmatters worse for reporters inMexico. There are many crediblenewspapers, including Zeta, inTijuana; Rio Doce, in Culiacán,and El Mañana, in Nuevo Laredothat have questioned whether thestate was involved in Alfredo’s disappearance.Indeed, the last storyAlfredo wrote was about a corruptborder town police chief arrestedin Arizona.Rio Doce and Zeta have questionedwhether Sonora state officialsmight have played a partin Alfredo’s disappearance. Othernewspapers have joined in thatline of investigation. The respectednational Mexico newspaper La Jornadasuggested in its reporting thatthe federal official Alfredo last metwith, Fernando Rojas Galván, wasthe young reporter’s confidentialinformant.Riva avoids mention in his articleof the entire issue of governmentcorruption and complicity by pinningthe blame directly on thenarco-trafficking underworld. Bydoing so, he chooses to reveal tothe Nieman Reports audience a lessuncomfortable truth.In his article, Riva focused onhow reporters in Mexico are censoringtheir journalism to protectthemselves from retaliation. Is itpossible Riva is protecting himselfas well? ■Michael MarizcoMichael Marizco is a journalist inArizona and northern Mexico specializingin organized crime andimmigration. His work is availableat http://BorderReporter.comTo the Editor:I find Michael Marizco’s argumentthat I destroyed the reputationof Alfredo Jiménez Mota, areporter for El Imparcial, a newspaperin the state of Sonora, hardto believe. Even more surprisingare some of the other allegationshe makes in his letter about myarticle, “Self-Censorship as a Reactionto Murders by Drug Cartels”(Summer 2006).He is upset that I did not attributeto any source the information thatJiménez, who has been missingsince the spring of 2005, was beingfed information from a drug cartel.The lack of attribution is enoughfor him to call into question theinformation’s validity and characterizeit as “misinformation.”I did not mention any sourcebecause I was using this informationonly as a context within mylarger story and not presenting itto readers as new information. Thisdoes not mean the information isfalse, as he implies. It seems thatwhat I considered background information,he considers a “scoop.”This is too bad, but it is not myfault that he does not have what Iconsider to be first-hand, qualityinformation.To also say that I did not exploregovernment corruption makes nosense to me. Certainly governmentcorruption is not a new story inMexico, but self-censorship by theMexican press because of threatsfrom drug cartels is a new situation.I stand by what I wrote, even if itis not the story that Mr. Marizcowanted or expected to read. ■Raymundo Riva-PalacioNieman Reports / Fall 2006 99


End NoteEnd NoteFamilies rely on the Nile for transport and sustenance. Photograph copyright Robert Azzi 2006. All rights reserved.A Photojournalist in the Middle East—Images and MemoriesBy Robert AzziThe captions on the accompanying pictures are undated. I believe that certain images,like those in this piece, have a timeless aspect to them—an aspect that becomeslimited in our minds when dates are attached. As the Nile has flowed through Cairosince pre-Pharaohic times, so too have certain images. I think I have been luckyenough to capture a few of them. —R.A.100 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


End NoteChild labor is omnipresent in Cairo. Photograph copyright Robert Azzi 2006. All rights reserved.Thirty years ago, just weeks beforeI started my Nieman year, I leftBeirut, which at the time wascaught up in the early stages of whatwould turn out to be a long, deadlyand costly civil war. Having lost myhouse and most of my possessions, Iwas excited at the respite being offeredby a year in academe, yet reluctant toleave Lebanon as the war was a greatstory. Dangerous, but great.As you read this, my daughter Imanis in Beirut, writing for The Daily Star,being mentored both by Jamil Mroue,one of my colleagues that Nieman year,and Rami Khouri, a later Nieman whounfortunately carries the burden of beinga Yankees fan. She arrived in Beirutto summer at The Daily Star, build upa tan at the Hotel St. Georges, andstart graduate school at the AmericanUniversity of Beirut.She arrived on June 21st, the Israelisarrived on July 12th, and very quicklyshe and Lebanon were swept up inthe vicious maelstrom called “life inthe Middle East,” a life so many of usknow too well. As I was before her, sheis young and a bit timid. Born in theUnited States, hesitant in her willingnessto speak colloquial Arabic, notyet fully comfortable with the cultureand sensitivities of the Arab Street, andunsure of her ability to both absorb andcommunicate stories with passion, sheinhabits a world that was once new tome. Great, but dangerous.Last spring our worlds crossed. Shehad recently finished a year studyingat the American University of Cairo,and I was invited to have an exhibit ofphotographs there.It was a challenge to edit memoriescovering 30 years of assignments andvisits, my impressions, my photographs.It would not be enough toexhibit pictures of the Pyramids andthe Sphinx as tourists see them. Nordid I want to reflect the idealized viewthat Cairenes and Egyptians imagineit to be. It had to be mine. I wantedEgyptians to see my Cairo—a Cairo ofchallenges and love, of dysfunctionand dignity.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 101


End NoteFirdosi café in the heart of the Khan el-Khalilimarketplace. Photographs copyright Robert Azzi2006. All rights reserved.Sheikhs at the Al Azhar Mosque share a quiet moment.There is pain in some of the photographs.It was painful to take someof them, painful now to look at someof them, and painful to think of thecircumstances that created the pain.But beyond the pain there is beauty,there is dignity, there is the triumphof a spirit, inspired by faith, connectedthrough millennium by history andshared experience, forged in the heatof the desert and colored by the giftsgiven by God.The gallery visitors responded asI had hoped. They saw themselvesthrough the dust and detritus of theirpost-colonial condition and werepleased. As was I.I am going to return to Beirut thisfall to see my daughter, hang out withJamil and Rami, eat kibbe niyeh, theLebanese steak tartare, as there won’tbe many fresh fish dinners from thenow oil-polluted Mediterranean, andtalk about the old days. A book projecton Lebanon is now on hold, but thereis much other building to be done withfamilies and friends.The Arab world has claimed mysoul; together we drink tea, and I amconsumed by her beauty and love.Today, photographs of the Middle East,reflections of encounters with Arabs,continue to saturate newsprint andairwaves but today they are images ofhorror, of peoples and ideas driftingfurther apart, estranged from theirroots, radicalized by their passions,and surrounded by ignorance, prejudice,violence and intolerance. FromCasablanca to cafés in Basra, throughliving rooms and Bedouin tents andnightclubs and mosques, a nation hasbecome rootless.I love the Arab Street. As a Muslim,I worship in sacred spaces that havegiven solace, protection and educationfor centuries. As an Arab, I walk streetsever aware of history that came beforeus all, from Asia, Africa and Europe,colonial and post-colonial, and ofpromises so freely given and as often102 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


End NoteHomeowners decorate the walls of their homes to celebrate the successful completion of a familymember’s pilgrimage to Mecca. Photographs copyright Robert Azzi 2006. All rights reserved.broken and, as an American photojournalist,I pass through the streets andsuqs as a guest, taking photographsthat become my memories.Perhaps my daughter will continueto share this passion. And perhaps shecan tell its story better than I have, forin the end I see my images fading, gatheringdust, becoming historical relics,set aside for the prurient immediacyof pictures of blood-stained bodies,oil-slick covered beaches, and childrenplaying with cluster bombs. ■Robert Azzi, a 1977 Nieman Fellow,is a photojournalist presently livingin Exeter, New Hampshire.Early morning over Islamic Cairo.Nieman Reports / Fall 2006 103


End NoteWomen bring fresh fruit to the Cairo marketplace.Years after her death, reminders of the great Egyptiandiva, Um Khalthoum, remain throughout the city. Photographscopyright Robert Azzi 2006. All rights reserved.104 Nieman Reports / Fall 2006


NIEMAN REPORTSONE FRANCIS AVENUECAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 02138NIEMAN REPORTS VOL. 60 NO. 3 FALL 2006 GLOBAL MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION THE NIEMAN FOUNDATION AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY

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