Covering wars for a polarized nation has destroyed the civic mission I once found in journalism. Why risk it all to get the facts for people who increasingly seem only to seek out the information they want and brand the stories and facts that don’t conform to their opinions as biased or inaccurate?
And without a higher purpose, what is a career as a reporter? It may count among the so-called “glamor jobs” sought after by recent graduates, but one careers website has listed newspaper reporting as the second worst job in America, based on factors such as stress, pay, and employment uncertainty; toiling as a janitor, dishwasher, or garbage collector all scored better. Even if you love the work, it’s hard not to get worn down by a job that sometimes requires you to risk life and limb for readers who wonder if maybe you suffer all the downsides and hazards just to support some hidden agenda.
I met Jim Foley once or twice working in the Middle East, but knew him mostly by his reputation: A friendly, laidback guy who could make people laugh even in the most dire situations. Now that he’s gone, I wish I could believe that such an extraordinary person died striving to inform an American public yearning to know the truth. It’s harder to accept what really happened, which is that he died while people eagerly formed opinions on his profession and the topics he covered without bothering to read the stories he put in front of them.