Foreign Correspondent’s Disease

So a reporter is interviewing a Thai general, who is shot right before his eyes, and THIS is what he writes? Back in the day, we coined a word for this bizarre phenomenon, when a reporter who personally experienced some dramatic, even traumatic event, proceeds to write his story as if he were piecing it together from sketchy third-hand reports. We called it “foreign correspondent’s disease.” And we meant no disrespect. It’s just that reporters who race around from war to disaster  are used to spreading themselves so thin over the Hindu Kush-es of the world, covering such volumes of human calamity on very short deadlines, that they tend to write as if by telegraph. Leaving themselves out of it is a kind of code of honor, to a fault.

Sure, first-personism can be abused and way overdone, but maybe we can settle on at least this modest formulation: If you happen to be an eyewitness to history, try not to shut your eyes.

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