January 1, 2010
Inaugural edition of 2010
Peter Worthington is the founding editor of the Toronto Sun and Sun newspapers. He served as a platoon commander in the Korean War with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and was the youngest officer in the Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Air Arm during World War Two. After the Korean War Peter became one of Canada’s foremost reporters, editors and columnists. He has covered virtually every major war in the world since the Korean War ended and holds many distinguished rewards for reporting. His column is republished from the January 1, 2010 edition of the Toronto Sun and other Sun newspapers across Canada. Peter deployed to Afghanistan two times for his newspaper, while in his latter 70's.
There's a death in the family
Journalists everywhere hard hit by Afghanistan casualty
But sometimes it does -- and it happened to Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang and four soldiers who were killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan, as the old year was dying and a new year about to begin.
I did not know Michelle Lang -- but in a way, all of us in the news business knew her.
We feel we have lost one of our own, just as soldiers feel they've lost a comrade when someone they didn't know from another regiment is killed in action.
Michelle is the first Canadian reporter killed in Afghanistan, though several have been wounded, injured or kidnapped "in the line of duty."
She is one of a hundred journalists who died on the job during 2009.
While her death brings the war closer to all of us who work in the media, it shouldn't -- and will not -- deter other journalists who cover wars, revolutions, uprisings, that plague the world.
Just as there is no shortage of young men and women who volunteer to serve their country in uniform in danger zones, so is there no shortage of journalists eager to witness violent history in the making for their newspapers of media outlets.
To some, it is both a privilege and an adventure to be able to witness and write about or record the violence human beings inflict on one another.
It seems obvious that Michelle Lang relished her assignment in Afghanistan and, again like the soldiers she wrote about and in whose company she was comfortable, wanted to be in no other place.
She was a "professional," and while that may be small solace to her family and friends, it is meant as an accolade and highly deserved.
All crises pose potential dangers to journalists -- all of which tend to be downplayed or dismissed by journalists on the ground.
But Afghanistan -- and especially Kandahar -- is different from most dangerous assignments, both for soldiers and journalists.
Increasingly, there is no safety or security outside the confines of the camp -- and even there, security is no guarantee.
A suicide bomber managed to infiltrate an American camp and blow himself up, killing eight Americans.
It plays havoc on the nerves to know that every time you venture outside the confines of the wire, there is no protection from a roadside bomb.
Every time you go out and nothing happens, you worry about the next time and when the law of averages will catch up with you.
Every soldier feels this, as does every journalist who is committed to the craft and forsakes the safety of a protected camp to go out with the troops.
Michelle Lang may have been new to the business of writing about soldiers and war, but from all accounts she was a trooper and determined to fit in -- which not all journalists do.
Soldiers are pretty shrewd at sizing people up, and they apparently regarded Michelle as one of the good ones.
There've now been 138 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002. And one diplomat, and now a journalist.
On the scale of past wars, the casualties in Afghanistan are modest -- yet every death is a tragedy.
Canada's journalistic family has reason to mourn today -- and to carry on, as our soldiers do.
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Above article provided courtesy of the Korean War Veteran, firstname.lastname@example.org