It all started with my Rabbi. Rabbi Dave.
Rabbi Dave is probably the only person whose real name I use with impunity on this blog, simply because Rabbi Dave is so good that his goodness could never be tarnished by anything I could say. Also, I would never say anything damaging about Rabbi Dave.
Anyway, I came to Rabbi Dave because New York, as some of you may know, is a confusing and exasperating and morally upside-down place. (Brooklyn, on the other hand, is fantastic and magical, but more on that later) In such a place, there are orthodox girls with the same longsleeve-high-necked shirts and knee length straight skirts (black or denim) and ballet flats, and and there are apostates with Hannuka bushes, and that’s it. Rabbi Dave knows.
Rabbi Dave helps hebrew-school dropouts at anonymous university reset their moral compases, needle pointing G-d. Rabbi Dave wants you to know, whichever temple you don’t attend—be it orthodox, conservative or reform— is fine; if you’d like to not attend a different sort of service, he can help. Rabbi Dave wants you to know that not attending a conservative temple doesn’t make you any less Jewish than not attending an orthodox one. He wants you to know—G-d also speaks english.
I bring up Rabbi Dave for two reasons. One, because I like him, with his peagreen crochet soupbowl of a yarmulke. Secondly, because this week’s theme is ETHICS. or lack thereof.
As many of you may know, I am studying Journalism at a certain uptown University. It’s very nice, thank you. I’m taking a course on international reporting from Mr. K, the former Moscow bureau chief and current dep. managing editor of my favorite press outfit. He would like you to know that he’s a very closed book, so don’t even try. For this reason, he will probably not give you his own personal answers to the twenty ethical hypotheticals he posed to our class this week. I will, however, give you mine (as they appear in my notes):
yes/maybe people will die yes/probably maybe/probably not yes this doesn’t affect your work as a j’list no—no danger, you don’t know who they are tell dissidents about embassy visit yes and vehemently yes—but I understand why someone would say no no no but don’t battle royale over it I don’t know probably not no, unless imminent news value—something is going to HAPPEN probably not, but I would do it maybe, probably no maybe no i would not—that’s a great way to be kidnapped yes probably maybe
IF you think that’s meaningless out of context, you’re starting to grasp the job of the foreign correspondent in the midst of a crisis.
Foreign reporting is touchy for a zillion reasons, not the least of which is that 90% of what’s read and reported from outside the West is about either conflict or disaster. Take Haiti, which in gross terms of human suffering, is absolutely rife for reporters, but where there is little western interest (except right now because of the hurricanes.)
Haiti has MAJOR structural and social problems, including but not limited to: HIV/AIDS and MDRTB; hunger/starvation; diarrheal disease; huge divides between rich and poor; corruption. And slavery.
Yes, in Haiti, they have child-slavery. I only learned about it after Roanne came back from Dajabon on the Dominican border, where she had seen them. But child slavery is very real on Hispanola, and its an issue that is so complex and so intensely Haitian that it rarely ever receives media attention. Except for today, in the New York Times.
This is the great boon of international reporting—that it can take a perennial issue and make it relevant while that corner of the world is in the spotlight. But it is also the great achillies heel. Without “acts of G-d” man is uninterested in the preventable tragedies of daily life, and worse, apethetic.