Saturday, March 28, 2015

Celebrating John F. Burns, War Reporter and Witness to Era-Defining Events -

The legendary reporter John Burns is "retiring" from the Times where he was rarely seen.  We'll see how that works out. The last word has not been written. - gwc
Celebrating John F. Burns, War Reporter and Witness to Era-Defining Events -
"For many Americans, the indelible image of John Burns is that unruly shock of gray curls, seemingly at odds with the stream of perfectly formed sentences illuminating the war in Iraq. His television appearances guaranteed he would be recognized by ordinary New Yorkers when he made his infrequent forays to headquarters — a place he spent most of his 40 years at The New York Times managing to avoid.
 For his editors, though, John Burns was most himself when invisible — the full force of his talent and personality revealed in his matchless dispatches from around the world, and even more in his signature memos. These were peerless works of artistry, eloquence and guile — making a case for the front page, painting a scene of the reporting rigors he was undergoing, explaining why he could not and should not do something his editors had requested, apologizing for the invariable lateness of the elegant prose hurtling toward New York as deadlines came and went.

John cared about the right things, and cared about them deeply. He wanted to get the story, and tell it with the full force of history and moral conviction. Rules were secondary, and like most great reporters, he knew when to break them. Whether he was embarking on a 1,000-mile motorcycle trip through closed areas of China or in hiding from Iraqi government agents when American bombs were falling on Baghdad, John pushed boundaries in the service of truth. Who can forget his portrait of the Sarajevo cellist who unfolded his plastic chair and played Albinoni’s Adagio in the rubble of the decimated capital? The Afghan couple awaiting their stoning death at the hands of the Taliban, and the woman’s weeping son checking to see if she was still alive after the first hail of stones?

 It was John’s eye and heart that would not allow his readers to forget the suffering of people so far away, so seemingly unconnected to them. For 40 years at The Times, John Burns reported from bases in Johannesburg, Moscow, China, Bosnia, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and London — not to mention the countless other datelines he accumulated in the more than 3,000 stories he wrote. He witnessed some of the greatest events in our time — apartheid in South Africa, the increasing stagnation of Communism in the Soviet Union, the deliberate stoking of ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia, the tyranny of Taliban rule, Saddam Hussein’s brutality toward his own people and the ravages of America’s war in Iraq."

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