Thursday, August 31, 2006

Paul Salopek

Trib reporter Paul Salopek is sitting in a jail cell in Sudan charged with being a spy. Probably not news to any of us.

In today's Seattle Times, his former co-worker at the Trib Ken Armstrong has added his voice to the many in the journo world trying to explain to world at large why they really, really should care about this. He's done the best job I've seen so far.

Paul came to the Tribune in 1996 from National Geographic. I covered legal affairs and worked on investigative projects. We attended a meeting once, to discuss story ideas. Paul said he wanted to track a single shipment of illegal drugs — from point of production through sale after sale after sale — to learn what lives were touched or destroyed along the way.
How could anyone possibly pull off such a story? He's not just a writer, I thought. He's a dreamer, too.

Two weeks ago, The Seattle Times ran a four-part series excerpted from the Chicago Tribune, called "A tank of gas, a world of trouble." Paul wrote the story. He took the same idea — the same bold, brilliant idea that I had dismissed all too readily years before — but replaced drugs with oil.

He tracked crude shipments from across the world to a single gas station in South Elgin, Ill., and showed how the gasoline that gets pumped into some 10-miles-a-gallon Chevy Suburban has touched and sometimes devastated lives in Louisiana, where the wetlands have turned to mud; in Nigeria, where the oil industry's byproducts have included pollution, corruption and political thuggery; in Iraq and Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, where the demand for oil and all of its resulting riches and intrigue have contributed to global turmoil.

Some of us should only hope to get half as good as Salopek and that we one day have those we've worked wtih willing to say stuff like this about us.

On a side note, GW apparently sent a note to Sudan's president about the situation. It actually takes someone getting chucked in jail and charged with spying in a foreign country suspected of genocide to get this administration to decide press freedoms are a good thing? Gee, Mr. President....


At 9:50 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Good stuff. I didn't know that about Salopek - thanks for posting that. I am off to read some of his coverage.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Uncle Paulie said...

page A11 of Monday's (Sept 18) washington post:

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.

Bilal Hussein, 35, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions, according to military officials. Hussein, 35, was detained April 12.

His Iraqi attorney, Badie Arief Izzat, said Hussein has proclaimed his innocence and believes he has been unfairly targeted because his photos from Ramadi and Fallujah, two cities in restive Anbar province, were deemed unwelcome by the U.S. military.


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