2009 Balance in Media Fellowship recipient Josiah Ryan describes his experience interning for the Jerusalem Post in Israel.
With the burden of heavy video equipment I had hiked narrow streets since dawn, turning endless corners, and chasing rumors of war that whispered with a fury through the unsettled city.
Tensions simmered among the religious population, and this morning, a Friday, was the most important day of prayer in the week for rival occupants of Jerusalem, Muslims and Jews.
A blockade imposed by platoons of Israeli paratroopers prevented Muslim men from approaching the third holiest site of their religion, the Temple Mount. Military boots and guns maintained the artifice of peace that I doubt reflected the reality in the surrounding neighborhoods.
One important principle I have tried to take as a mentee of some of the Jerusalem Post’s best writers while reporting on a Leadership Institute Broadcast Journalism Fellowship, is that in tough conditions tenacity and patience are the reporter’s race. The last man standing often brings the story home to his newspaper.
Regardless of handicaps, the chief among them being language, I had often reaped the rewards of patience and longsuffering in previous months at the Post. I won interviews with political stars from around the world, gained front page spots in the print edition, and was sent on exciting adventures through the Holy Land.
Television camera and notebook in hand I had chased stories across rooftops of crumbling tenements, crawled through the ancient mud of caves and graves, and tiptoed into the thickest conditions of what might be called a normal Middle Eastern day.
When three explosions reverberated out across the valley opposite of my position near the Old City’s walls I knew I had my story and I began running in that direction. I was carrying a JPOST TV camera and unlike other photographers who ran with me, I wore no Kevlar helmet.
It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to report from the heart of a battle between suburbs of angry Palestinians and the smartest urban combat force in the world. Every brick dropped on us from the three storied buildings that lined the streets, every shot fired, every terrified scream of distressed mothers, and the blood, even in small amounts were, of course, terrifying. Time stopped but in my head was the task before me as a newsman. I must capture this for the viewership.
The silence fell in minutes, but it felt like hours. I was exhausted with the same sensation one might have after running a marathon. There had been about 23 serious injuries in total but I escaped, intact and with video that headlined the Jerusalem Posts website for the weekend and scooped the competition. I also emerged with the idea that I should write my sponsors at the Leadership Institute and ask them to mail me a helmet post haste.
Of course in reality, reporting is always hard work, always long work, and always low paid work with little glory, but it is usually quite safe. Most of my days are passed in perfect tranquility.
Safe or unsafe, however, I understand as a conservative that the challenges in storm and in calm are worthwhile. I understand that a robust and fearless press is the cornerstone of democracy and crucial to the endurance of freedom.
As my work continues, I am grateful to Morton Blackwell, Eric Slee, the Leadership Institute, and its many strong supporters for choosing me as a partner. The Leadership Institute has armed me with vast amounts of potent technical and ideological conservative training and placed me in positions where I could fight for those beliefs. Since the Leadership Institute recruited me to come to Washington in the summer of 2007 it has remained my greatest ally.