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Sebastian Junger's essential humility

Long Story Short



There's a great and even noble tradition of covering wars, as the volumes in the Library of America series Reporting World War II and Reporting Vietnam will attest.

One of the critical jobs war correspondents do is seek to convey a typical soldier's experiences and feelings, often of terror, anger, boredom, remorse and exhilaration.

Still, no matter how they embed these days, no matter how they immerse themselves, reporters ought to remember one critical difference between themselves and their subjects: They're there by choice and can leave when they wish.

Sebastian Junger, the subject of an interview with Bill Forman that you'll find here this week, is a big name in the little world of journalism. His fame traces to his 1997 book The Perfect Storm, which was turned into a movie. He parlayed that recognition into work covering the most recent war in Afghanistan, which in print and film is marked by humility.

No one needs to remind Junger that he's not one of the soldiers, and in that way he does them justice. He knows the story is never about him. He's not presumptuous enough to think he's their surrogate.

"The definition of journalism," he tells Forman, "is revealing information to the public without expressing your personal opinion."

As long as wars are fought and the young are sent to die for older people's agendas, journalists like Junger will be as essential as ammunition.

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