Friday, September 22, 2006

How To Do It

My colleague Captain Cabernet has already posted on DA on Darfur, so this may be somewhat OT. Readers who know me will know that I hold William Deedes, former editor of the Torygraph, former foreign correspondent, contemporary of and model for Evelyn Waugh, in the highest esteem.
This is how you write about Darfur. No swinging certainties that if it's in Africa, it must be like Rwanda. Just paragraph of falsifiable statements after paragraph of same. Read, and learn:

When Khartoum struck oil in southern and south-western Sudan in 1975, its influence in the world multiplied. From being regarded as a somewhat remote country, it began to win friends.
The National Petroleum Company of oil-thirsty China built a pipeline across cruel country to Port Sudan and several countries became Khartoum's clients.
The oil fields were fiercely protected from attack. In the prolonged war being waged between Khartoum and southern Sudan, the south reckoned that oil revenues would fortify Khartoum's hand against it.

Now, these facts may be wrong. I'm not there. I can't check. But they are clear. They are gainsayable, and with very little wriggle room. This is how journalism should be.
Put it like this: when I read a columnist, I expect him to know more than I can adduce from all facts as reported. If he's to be an authority, he has to add something essential to what he writes. Going there, or having been there counts for a great deal. Desk-anchorites don't make it, guys.
Note to Oliver Kamm: this is why John Pilger is cool, and you're not, sorry.


Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

No, not me, it was other BB.

9/22/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but no way are those safari suits "cool." The guy looks like he walked out of a St Bruno print add circa 1976. Kamm probably wears expensively-cut dark business suits, if the well-groomed mugshot on his blog is anything to go by.

Or am I missing the point?

9/24/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Anon, you're probably right. 'Cool' was not the right word. Moreover, I think there's a place for Oliver Kamm both in blogging and in journalism (or commentary, as he and I once had an exchange re whether he was a journalist or not*). I think John Pilger's work on Cambodia was very important journalism indeed. I know he has blind spots. I knew that before I knew he existed, because everyone does. One thing journalists - as a rule - don't know is how to cope with financial or statistical information. Ollie does know this. If he fisks Gordon Brown or his Lib Dem or Tory equivalents, good for him. His opinions on Cambodia, however, are of little more worth than those of the prisoners in Plato's cave. All he knows is second hand.

*OK: I am not a journalist. Me: yes you are.
It went further than that. His example was that Tony Blair publishes pieces in the press under his own name. Would that make him a journalist? [My answer was, "we all know Alastair Campbell writes those, and yes, he is" but it could also have been, "temporarily, yes, he is, who says you have to have one career only?".] Shorter me: you write for a newspaper - you're a journalist. Shorter OK: I'm an essayist a paper happens to publish. I respect his view, and I think it has some merit, I just also happen to think it's wrong.

9/25/2006 08:55:00 PM  

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