Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

The Gospel and a mighty truth

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I have interviewed my fair share of people in the past year, and it wasn’t always easy. For my very first story for the Missourian, I interviewed the grandfather of a 19-year-old kid who was killed in Iraq. Later, I spent two hours talking to a man who had been abused by two priests in his youth. And, of course, there was Yvonne, Eddie, Joan, Gary, LeRoy, and all the other Katrina survivors I talked to in New Orleans.

Those were tough, but from a strictly journalistic standpoint, I find my most difficult interviews have been with Evangelical Christians. They are often so hell-bent (pardon the pun) on delivering their message, that it’s hard to get past it in the conversation. The Gospel may be fascinating, but I’m not going to print 15 inches of it in the paper. This is not only true of Evangelical Christians, but in general of anyone that believes unconditionally in the message they’re spreading.

For an illustration, check the story I have in the Sentinel tomorrow (I’ll link to it in time). The two or three quotes I have in there are the only decent ones I got out of two 1/2-hour interviews. If you have tips on how to do it better next time, please share.

The interview was fascinating, though, for at least one reason: ever seen a recently Evangelist biker try to convert an atheist Jewish college student? He tried with me, too, but I kept my cool. Not that I don’t find a lot of good things to the Gospel, but I have always been wary of people who can’t find something bad to say about their religion. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Same goes for the Soka Gakkai people who came to talk to my Buddhism class last semester and couldn’t wipe their contented smile off their face. Smells fishy.

I have, however, finally found my religion, and I have found fellow believers. The Gospel never quite did it for me, or at least not all of it (don’t tell my grandfather). So far, I’ve found bits and pieces of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Lakota religion that I agree with, but also bits and pieces I have serious issues with. And that’s only in the religions I’ve seriously studied.

But there is one thing that shapes my world view and that I try my darndest to live by (that’s what religions are, right?). That thing is truth. I’m a bit grandiloquent, aren’t I? Let’s rewind.

Tom Warhover mentioned to me a few months ago an NPR segment where Marianne Pearl explained that her and late husband Daniel Pearl’s religion (beyond their Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds) was truth and a religious-like attachment to their principles as journalists. I can’t find the audio anywhere (help, please), but I’m sure she put into brilliant words exactly when I’m trying to explain here.

The idea is to live one’s life, not just do one’s job, by the principles that guide us as journalists, with truth being No. 1 of course. Obviously, it’s not formulated and there’s no Holy Book (Kovach and Rosenstiel’s maybe?). The journalists we admire the most tend to live by that anyway without thinking much about it. Of course, like Evangelicals, we can’t seem to shut up about it and are absolutely insufferable to everyone else, starting with family. So we rant to other navel-gazing journalists.

The ending of this post was beautifully formulated in my head last night, after I saw A Mighty Heart all by my lonely self and couldn’t stop shaking for the rest of the night. I thought I’d sleep on it before writing, and now it’s gone. So much for that.

My less fascinating ending will thus be about the film. Angelina Jolie is breathtaking. I used not to like her, so the compliment means a lot. (On a side note, her subtle accent sounds more French than mine, including when she speaks French. Slightly unsettling at first.) The documentary-like direction makes you feel like you’re standing in the streets of Karachi. Marianne Pearl, and her on-screen version, is sometimes so perfect it’s irking. But she’s one of those people you really can’t say anything bad about. I recommend the film to everyone, except for my parents whom I want to be able to sleep when I start going on assignments abroad (soon I hope).


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 23 June, 2007 at 23:24

Posted in (Pop) culture, Ethics

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