martes, enero 30, 2007

Lo mejor y lo peor del 2006

La mejor forma de terminar este primer semestre de Hijo del Medio, antes de volver en marzo, es precisamente recogiendo la raíz de nuestra profesión: las buenas historias. Aquí tres notables historias publicadas en The Best American Magazine Writing 2006. Tres trabajos de investigación profundos sobre temas que hoy marcan la agenda mundial: Irak, el cambio climático y la manipulación de la prensa que realiza la administración Bush. Quedan pendiente los grandes artículos de habla hispana y abrir los espacios para este tipo de investigaciones en la prensa chilena, que muchas veces registra los mismos personajes y las mismas historias. Dentro de lo peor de este periodo, sin duda está la partida de Kapuscinski, el periodista polaco que marcó muchas generaciones y que pese a los cuestionamientos que recibió por las licencias creativas que se daba al narrar sus reportajes, sin duda abrió mundos que despertaron -y despertarán- a jóvenes periodistas por todo el mundo. Al final, dos enfoques para la vida de Ryszard Kapuscinski.


The Man Who Sold the War
Por JAMES BAMFOR
rollingstones.com/politics.
The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm. Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein.

For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad. It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa. The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon. Rendon is a man who fills a need that few people even know exists. Two months before al-Haideri took the lie-detector test, the Pentagon had secretly awarded him a $16 million contract to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda. One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam. It was as if President John F. Kennedy had outsourced the Bay of Pigs operation to the advertising and public-relations firm of J. Walter Thompson. "They're very closemouthed about what they do," says Kevin McCauley, an editor of the industry trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "It's all cloak-and-dagger stuff."

Host
Por David Foster Wallace
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200504/wallace
r. John Ziegler, thirty-seven, late of Louisville's WHAS, is now on the air, "Live and Local," from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. every weeknight on southern California's KFI, a 50,000-watt megastation whose hourly ID and Sweeper, designed by the station's Imaging department and featuring a gravelly basso whisper against licks from Ratt's 1984 metal classic "Round and Round," is "KFI AM-640, Los Angeles—More Stimulating Talk Radio."

This is either the eighth or ninth host job that Mr. Ziegler's had in his talk-radio career, and far and away the biggest. He moved out here to LA over Christmas—alone, towing a U-Haul—and found an apartment not far from KFI's studios, which are in an old part of the Koreatown district, near Wilshire Center. The John Ziegler Show is the first local, nonsyndicated late-night program that KFI has aired in a long time. It's something of a gamble for everyone involved. Ten o'clock to one qualifies as late at night in southern California, where hardly anything reputable's open after nine. It is currently right near the end of the program's second segment on the evening of May 11, 2004, shortly after Nicholas Berg's taped beheading by an al-Qaeda splinter in Iraq.

Dressed, as is his custom, for golf, and wearing a white-billed cap w/ corporate logo, Mr. Ziegler is seated by himself in the on-air studio, surrounded by monitors and sheaves of Internet downloads. He is trim, clean-shaven, and handsome in the somewhat bland way that top golfers and local TV newsmen tend to be. His eyes, which off-air are usually flat and unhappy, are alight now with passionate conviction. Only some of the studio's monitors concern Mr. Z.'s own program; the ones up near the ceiling take muted, closed-caption feeds from Fox News, MSNBC, and what might be C-SPAN. To his big desk's upper left is a wall-mounted digital clock that counts down seconds. His computer monitors' displays also show the exact time. Across the soundproof glass of the opposite wall, another monitor in the Airmix room is running an episode of The Simpsons, also muted, which both the board op and the call screener are watching with half an eye. Pendent in front of John Ziegler's face, attached to the same type of hinged, flexible stand as certain student desk lamps, is a Shure-brand broadcast microphone that is sheathed in a gray foam filtration sock to soften popped p's and hissed sibilants. It is into this microphone that the host speaks: "And I'll tell you why—it's because we're better than they are."

A Georgetown B.A. in government and philosophy, scratch golfer, former TV sportscaster, possible world-class authority on the O.J. Simpson trial, and sometime contributor to MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Mr. Ziegler is referring here to America versus what he terms "the Arab world." It's near the end of his "churn," which is the industry term for a host's opening monologue, whose purpose is both to introduce a show's nightly topics and to get listeners emotionally stimulated enough that they're drawn into the program and don't switch away. More than any other mass medium, radio enjoys a captive audience—if only because so many of the listeners are driving—but in a major market there are dozens of AM stations to listen to, plus of course FM and satellite radio, and even a very seductive and successful station rarely gets more than a five or six percent audience share. "We're not perfect, we suck a lot of the time, but we are better as a people, as a culture, and as a society than they are, and we need to recognize that, so that we can possibly even begin to deal with the evil that we are facing."

When Mr. Z.'s impassioned, his voice rises and his arms wave around (which obviously only those in the Airmix room can see). He also fidgets, bobs slightly up and down in his executive desk chair, and weaves. Although he must stay seated and can't pace around the room, the host does not have to keep his mouth any set distance from the microphone, since the board op, 'Mondo Hernandez, can adjust his levels on the mixing board's channel 7 so that Mr. Z.'s volume always stays in range and never peaks or fades. 'Mondo, whose price for letting outside parties hang around Airmix is one large bag of cool-ranch Doritos per evening, is an immense twenty-one-year-old man with a ponytail, stony Mesoamerican features, and the placid, grandmotherly eyes common to giant mammals everywhere. Keeping the studio signal from peaking is one of 'Mondo's prime directives, along with making sure that each of the program's scheduled commercial spots is loaded into Prophet and run at just the right time, whereupon he must confirm that the ad has run as scheduled in the special Airmix log he signs each page of, so that the station can bill advertisers for their spots. 'Mondo, who started out two years ago as an unpaid intern and now earns ten dollars an hour, works 7:00—1:00 on weeknights and also board-ops KFI's special cooking show on Sundays.

As long as he's kept under forty hours a week, which he somehow always just barely is, the station is not obliged to provide 'Mondo with employee benefits. The Nick Berg beheading and its Internet video compose what is known around KFI as a "Monster," meaning a story that has both high news value and tremendous emotional voltage. As is SOP in political talk radio, the emotions most readily accessed are anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee, all of which the Nick Berg thing's got in spades. Mr. Ziegler, whose program is in only its fourth month at KFI, has been fortunate in that 2004 has already been chock-full of Monsters—Saddam's detention, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Greg Haidl gang-rape trial, and preliminary hearings in the rape trial of Kobe Bryant. But tonight is the most angry, indignant, disgusted, and impassioned that Mr. Z.'s gotten on-air so far, and the consensus in Airmix is that it's resulting in some absolutely first-rate talk radio.

THE CLIMATE OF MAN
Por Elizabeth Kolbert
www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/050425fa_fact3
The Alaskan village of Shishmaref sits on an island known as Sarichef, five miles off the coast of the Seward Peninsula. Sarichef is a small island—no more than a quarter of a mile across and two and a half miles long—and Shishmaref is basically the only thing on it. To the north is the Chukchi Sea, and in every other direction lies the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, which probably ranks as one of the least visited national parks in the country. During the last ice age, the land bridge—exposed by a drop in sea levels of more than three hundred feet—grew to be nearly a thousand miles wide.

The preserve occupies that part of it which, after more than ten thousand years of warmth, still remains above water. Shishmaref (pop. 591) is an Inupiat village, and it has been inhabited, at least on a seasonal basis, for several centuries. As in many native villages in Alaska, life there combines—often disconcertingly—the very ancient and the totally modern. Almost everyone in Shishmaref still lives off subsistence hunting, primarily for bearded seals but also for walrus, moose, rabbit, and migrating birds. When I visited the village one day last April, the spring thaw was under way, and the seal-hunting season was about to begin. (Wandering around, I almost tripped over the remnants of the previous year’s catch emerging from storage under the snow.) At noon, the village’s transportation planner, Tony Weyiouanna, invited me to his house for lunch. In the living room, an enormous television set tuned to the local public-access station was playing a rock soundtrack. Messages like “Happy Birthday to the following elders . . .” kept scrolling across the screen.

Traditionally, the men in Shishmaref hunted for seals by driving out over the sea ice with dogsleds or, more recently, on snowmobiles. After they hauled the seals back to the village, the women would skin and cure them, a process that takes several weeks. In the early nineteen-nineties, the hunters began to notice that the sea ice was changing. (Although the claim that the Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow is an exaggeration, the Inupiat make distinctions among many different types of ice, including sikuliaq, “young ice,” sarri, “pack ice,” and tuvaq, “landlocked ice.”) The ice was starting to form later in the fall, and also to break up earlier in the spring. Once, it had been possible to drive out twenty miles; now, by the time the seals arrived, the ice was mushy half that distance from shore. Weyiouanna described it as having the consistency of a “slush puppy.” When you encounter it, he said, “your hair starts sticking up. Your eyes are wide open. You can’t even blink.” It became too dangerous to hunt using snowmobiles, and the men switched to boats.Soon, the changes in the sea ice brought other problems. At its highest point, Shishmaref is only twenty-two feet above sea level, and the houses, many built by the U.S. government, are small, boxy, and not particularly sturdy-looking.

When the Chukchi Sea froze early, the layer of ice protected the village, the way a tarp prevents a swimming pool from getting roiled by the wind. When the sea started to freeze later, Shishmaref became more vulnerable to storm surges. A storm in October, 1997, scoured away a hundred-and-twenty-five-foot-wide strip from the town’s northern edge; several houses were destroyed, and more than a dozen had to be relocated. During another storm, in October, 2001, the village was threatened by twelve-foot waves. In the summer of 2002, residents of Shishmaref voted, a hundred and sixty-one to twenty, to move the entire village to the mainland. Last year, the federal government completed a survey of possible sites for a new village. Most of the spots that are being considered are in areas nearly as remote as Sarichef, with no roads or nearby cities, or even settlements. It is estimated that a full relocation will cost at least a hundred and eighty million dollars.

Ryszard Kapuscinski
Por ANDREW NAGORSKI
http://opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110009574
Whenever we met in Warsaw for dinner on one of my recent trips there, the drill was the same. Ryszard Kapuscinski--world traveler to the most dangerous hotspots in the Third World, the risk taker par excellence--wanted to meet at his favorite Italian restaurant in the city, order the same insalata mista, pasta pesto and bottle of Montepulciano that he always did. This writer of literary "collages" as he called them, nearly two-dozen books, treated Warsaw as his refuge, his island of normalcy and familiar routine in a life that overflowed with the extraordinary and the unpredictable.

The Lies of Ryszard Kapuscinski
Por Jack Shafer
http://www.slate.com/id/2158315
The Washington Post obituary of Ryszard Kapuściński, who died Jan. 23, calls him "among the most celebrated war correspondents of his generation." The Los Angeles Times obituary proclaims him the "most celebrated of Polish journalists, whose work earned international acclaim." In the Guardian, director Jonathan Miller speaks of Kapuściński's "magnificent reportage" from Haile Selassie's royal court. The Daily Telegraph obituary describes him as "Poland's most renowned foreign correspondent and a witness to much of the turbulent birth of the Third World."

2 Comentarios:

Blogger Simply Me dijo...

¿Acaso este tipo de "compilaciones" y rankings de "lo mejor de" no se hacen a final de año?
Pero tranquilo, es un buen intento.

Por los temas de los artículos, la selección es un híbrido entre un resumen del 2006 y un anticipo de lo que seguirá siendo noticia este año. Ojalá las personas que creen que el calentamiento global "no es para tanto" leyeran artículos como el del New Yorker.

Ya me extrañaba la ausencia de algún texto sobre Kapuscinski, y me sorprendió el de Slate porque es lo primero que leo que no es más que halagos y panegíricos. Está bien pensar de manera distinta a -lo que parece ser- una mayoría, pero comparar a Kapuscinski con Stephen Glass me parece exagerado. ¿Existe acaso alguna comunidad en África creada por el periodista polaco para engañar a su editor y sustentar así alguna historia? ¿Usó alguna vez la identidad de un tío o primo para inventar una fuente? Lo dudo.

Es como si Glass hubiera cometido dolo y Kapuscinski sólo una falta.
Y aún así, siento que a quien fue capaz de describir como él no sólo personajes e historias, sino también atmósferas -y son éstas las que para mí constituyen la realidad-, se le perdonan ciertos "caprichos".

Supongo que viajando como él lo hizo y viviendo in situ tantas realidades, la acusada "alegoría" saldría por sí sola. Si es por eso, ojalá a mí también me acusen de escrbir "realismo mágico" en vez de periodismo.

Saludos,
Andrea P.

6:33 p. m.  
Blogger Ella en la cama dijo...

Querido:

Estuve a punto de leer todo, pero algo me incomodaba: el idioma. Me cuesta entender pensando en el significado que viene. Me encantaría alguna traducción, por muy burda que sea (no si deforma el texto)

CIAO QUERIDO, VISITEME.

4:50 a. m.  

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