November 14, 2003

Journalist and Speaker-David Maraniss

Bringing worlds together. Vietnam, Washington and college campuses, specifically the University of Wisconsin in one day, October 18, 1967.

That is what David Maraniss did in his book, They Marched Into Sunlight, or so he claimed last night at the lecture in Cecilian Hall at Seton Hill University.

During the talk, I couldn't help but think that the people that we hold in such high esteem: sports athletes, television personalities, even bloggers that visit campus, are real people. And when Maraniss came to campus, I was at first star-struck at attending an in-person Pulitzer Prize winner's presentation.

Some of the best information didn't come from his book, however; much came from his interpretation and experiences in journalism (at least for me).

Everyone laughed when he said, "Journalists are the worst interviews." I believe it. We spend so much time hearing what others have to say, that we know what we shouldn't say, and eventually stifle (Archie Bunker-like) ourselves.

But perhaps the most memorable moment was when he mentioned his First Rule as a journalist:"Go there, wherever there is."

And this caused the most conflict all night for me. I wanted to ask him a question. I kept raising my hand. Almost waving to get his attention. And the worst thing was, he wouldn't call on me. He called a guy sitting in front of us, a good-looking young man in a red sweater, that littered his questions with obscure statements, such as, "my great uncle said that his brother said that....", and "ahhhhs" and "ums". Didn't this guy have the self-respect to form a question before raising his hand?

And what question, you ask, did I so ardently want to pose? Since he visited Vietnam after the war, I believe 34 years later, does he hold the same view on current conflicts? I wanted to ask him about importance of embedded reporting, his opinion, and how he feels about reporters going to Iraq and being killed in their coverage of war.

But Mr. Red Sweater asked another question--the final question of the night, and I didn't get to ask my GOOD question. How cheap. But I didn't have to pay for a ticket so I guess I got my money's worth. hehe.

I liked when he mentioned new media in his speech, "The Internet has become the community for Vietnam veterans." So often the Internet is vilified, such as in the librarians' presentation at Seton Hill (I don't think they want to lose their jobs); but it is a wonderful resource that should be used when necessary. I was happy to see that that form of communication was not left out.

Some of his statements: "Everything was different, but everything was the same," "There's a human being behind each of these faces," and "Everyday lives that are changed by these events," really struck me. His eloquence and calm demeanor really made me listen, made me think about not only the journalism aspects of the speaker, but the subject matter of his book as well.

Being there last night enabled me to contact a world completely different from the college student that I am. A world where pain and hurt are real, and, as Maraniss said, "[where] every day is a discovery." I was happy to discover that. I was priveledged to learn that.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 14, 2003 12:00 PM
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