Death of a hero
PUBLISHED: 13:27 03 May 2007 | UPDATED: 15:05 12 May 2010
The name David Halberstam may not mean much to a wider audience, but to me he was a hero. He was a journalist s journalist. Last week, while travelling to yet another interview he was killed in a road accident. He was 73 years of age. For those who know n
The name David Halberstam may not mean much to a wider audience, but to me he was a hero. He was a journalist's journalist.
Last week, while travelling to yet another interview he was killed in a road accident.
He was 73 years of age.
For those who know nothing about the man let me explain.
He was an American reporter who began his journalistic career in the Deep South, but his talent was soon recognised and he was recruited to the New York Times.
It was that newspaper that sent him to Vietnam to become one of a group of young reporters soon to embarrass the White House with their despatches from the war zone.
To them the official line just did not seem to be true. And from their own experiences of moving around the battlefields they began sending critical reports to their newspapers.
Years later it was recognised that the reporters were, indeed, telling the truth, and the administration was hiding behind bogus details.
That time in Vietnam gave Halberstam the opportunity to write The Best and the Brightest, a book about those experiences and the reporter's day-to-day conflict with the military and politics.
It was a book which, obviously, generated publicity at the time, but it was one which I did not discover until it was seen on a second-hand book counter.
Forget the military and political intrigue, this is a book in which a reporter shows the true skills of his craft as a journalist.
Halberstam became the epitome of a reporter.
And it was sustained during his career, whether writing his brilliant and thought-provoking The Children, the story of the student rising during the Civil Rights campaign and the terrifying Freedom Rides into the Deep South, or his books The Amateurs, about US Olympic rowing or The Summer of 64, a classic telling of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the St Louis Cardinals.
In whatever Halberstam wrote there was always that quest for the truth and the need for each detail.
In his case he had the skill and the talent to put that into his writing.
Without doubt, he was a reporter from whom every other reporter should learn.
I know I did.