Ethics versus life

Carol Off reading at Blue Heron Books & Brunch event, Nov. 12, 2017.

Last Sunday morning, I watched a seasoned journalist get uncharacteristically emotional. Previously a foreign correspondent, a reporter who’d covered hostilities in the Middle East and a long-time current affairs radio host, Carol Off’s eyes welled up. She recalled, in 2002, convincing Asad Aryubwal, an Afghan father of five, to go on-camera to expose the warlords the U.S. military was courting to overthrow the Taliban.

“Asad’s courage in speaking out was rewarded only with the calamity when, in response to (my) documentary,” Off told Zoomer magazine, “Afghanistan’s most powerful warlord sent a death squad to kill him.”

Making news unfake

David Carr, photo Chester Higgins Jr., New York Times website.

When 911 happened, he was working at a magazine in New York. He called it a party magazine. Not particularly substantial. And he was a recognized media critic covering the arts. Suddenly, one morning in September, long-time newspaper reporter David Carr got a call from his editor just after 9 o’clock. The editor told him what had just happened at the World Trade Center and he was assigned to the story.

“Some of the staff are going uptown, some downtown,” the editor told him. “Carr, you go cover the firemen.”

Health care with character

My wife and I arrived at the downtown Toronto hospital just in time to see the patient we were concerned about transported from an ambulance into the hospital Emergency ward. Then, we saw the crowded waiting room, and knew it was going to be a long stay. Within a few minutes, however, the paramedics who’d wheeled our patient in, got a heads-up and we were suddenly on the move.

“Express Six,” the paramedic said. “We’re going to Express Six.” And right away the paramedic team had cradled our patient onto a bed in one of those Emergency room cubicles where curtains gave the only privacy.

Speaking truth to power

Ross Perigoe criticizes a major Canadian newspaper for its commentary after the 9/11 attacks.
Ross Perigoe criticizes a major Canadian newspaper for its commentary after the 9/11 attacks.

In the days following 9/11, the West had revenge top of mind. Within days of the terrorist attacks, U.S. President George Bush promised his armies would avenge the deaths of the 3,000 Americans killed, claiming that the perpetrators were “Islamists commanded to kill Christians and Jews” and that they were therefore “wanted dead or alive.” Most in North America accepted his Wild West form of justice.

At the time, however, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal did not. Almost at his peril, journalist and educator Ross Perigoe criticized the powers that be, in particular the Montreal Gazette, for what he called its racist response to 9/11.

“I am in the Place des Arts metro station,” Perigoe cited a Gazette editorialist on Sept. 19, 2011, “I see three men, one wearing a turban. I start to shake.”