There’s someone I want Sarah Palin and James O’Keefe and Julian Assange to meet: Anthony Shadid.
Shadid, a friend and former Boston Globe colleague, has thankfully been found in Libya, after he and three of his colleagues at the New York Times went missing for several days covering the dangerous conflict there. The four, who the Times reports were captured by forces loyal to Libyan leader (for now) Muammar Qadhafi, are reportedly to be released. One can’t imagine what the foursome went through for those days. They, like many other journalists risking their lives or the health reporting in the Middle East and Japan, willingly put themselves in grave danger in support of democracy—a major tenet of which is a free and independent press.
That’s something I hope Palin thinks about when—while collecting pots of money for self-serving autobiographies and reality TV shows—she refers to those who might question her in the press as the "lamestream media." It’s something I hope Assange thinks about as he awaits a determination of what, if anything, will happen to him because he released classified information through WikiLeaks. Assange likely put others in physical danger through some of the disclosures, but he didn’t put himself at risk.
And then there’s O’Keefe, who imagines himself as some kind of "citizen journalist" (I’ll accept that notion right after I let a "citizen surgeon" cut into me) because he stages almost comical videotaped stings of liberal targets, then edits the film to distort what actually happened. Most recently, O’Keefe doctored the sequence of a videotape in which an NPR executive is heard appearing to slam the Tea Party movement as crazy and racist. A closer examination of the full tape shows that the executive was quoting unnamed Republicans voicing concerns about the amorphous movement. The executive also made it very, very clear (though O’Keefe conveniently edited out this part) that NPR would not exchange favorable coverage for a financial donation to the radio network. It seems O’Keefe, through that tape and his other ridiculous escapades, learned a lesson that gets real journalists fired: not to let the truth get in the way of a good story. [Vote now: Does the Schiller-O’Keefe drama mean NPR should lose federal funding?]
Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has risked his life for his work before; in 2002, he was badly wounded after being shot in the West Bank. A stellar reporter, beautiful writer, and loyal colleague, Shadid went to Libya in search of the truth. And he didn’t let the danger get in the way of his mission.