There Is No Cat

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Our correspondent is sorry to tell of an uneasy time when all is not well

BBC journalist Jacky Rowland gave evidence against Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic at Milosevic's war crimes trial in The Hague today. I was surprised to hear that a journalist would do such a thing, as the common wisdom is that, number one, by doing so, a journalist would appear to be taking sides, and number two, by setting such a precedent, it makes journalists' jobs more difficult in the future by letting story subjects know that the journalist may report to more than just his/her listeners and readers. But Rowland has an interesting response to this, which she elaborates on in the video clip that accompanies the BBC's web site story about her appearance. Basically, her argument is that a journalist's job is inherently dangerous anyway, and that with all the high-tech toys journalists have now that will likely make live coverage of war crimes as they happen possible in the very near future that subjects aren't going to be thinking about the remote possibility of a journalist testifying against them in the distant future. It's an interesting argument, I suppose, but I'm not sure I like what it says about the future of journalism. Basically, her argument comes down to the idea that journalists will be setting themselves up to be harmed or killed in any case, so her testifying will have no impact on the safety of journalists anyway. That seems like a curious rationale to me, and one that makes me kind of glad that I never pursued my dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

In any case, I have to agree with Ms. Rowland when she said that she was "very happy to say the BBC enjoys probably the best international reputation of any international broadcaster for being objective." It was that committment to objectivity an excellence in reporting that's made me a BBC fan for 25 years and that led me to join the protest when the BBC World Service stopped broadcasting to North America last year.

Posted at 6:51 PM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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