Oriana Fallaci

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving to the SW, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

This morning I bored you with my tales of woe, mostly focused on the short-term issues. This afternoon, I am going to bore you with something aimed at helping the long-term memory issues.

I actually need to thank Glenn Reynolds for sparking a memory moment with this post on the passing of Barbara Walters where he mentioned she was no Oriana Fallaci. It actually triggered several memories, but one stood out. Been meaning to write this post, but kept forgetting to put it on the list…

One of the great things about having Daryle Feldmeir as head of the journalism program is that the man had the personal and professional connections to bring in guest speakers others could only dream of getting. Mike Royko was one, but the most interesting out of all of them (and they were all interesting and notable) was Oriana Fallaci.

She was a striking woman, with a personality that made her seem larger than she was. There is much written about her, but some quick highlights include being a member of the resistance in Italy before and during WWII, interviewing some of the most notable leaders and artists in the world, and an interview style that is not wrong to be described as an interrogation. It is worth noting that after interviewing Kohmeni that her criticisms of Islam brought howls of protest and accusations of Islamophobia.

She, like Daryle and Les Brownlee, was a bulldog for the truth, and I honestly think she would be disgusted with the state of corporate journalism today. In fact, I could easily see her with the bloggers and others like Project Veritas and the New Journalism start-ups.

Her talk that day was amazing. It covered a lot of ground, as she talked about some of the people she had interviewed, why she interviewed the way she did, and why those she knew were hiding things were given no mercy. It got into some of her other work (she covered Vietnam in person) and her other writing. When she talked about having a servant tie her to a chair and not let her out until she had written so many words on a book, my eyebrows probably ended up well past the crown of my head.

She did get a little into journalistic ethics and the Canons of Journalism. It was not her job or ours to make people comfortable. It was our job to make them uncomfortable, to dig for what was hidden, and to hold leaders of all stripes accountable. If you could do it with style, all the better. Be truthful above all. There was more, but that’s about all I can pull up right now.

Between her unscripted speech, and the question and answer session, we learned a lot. About the only thing off limits was her love life, other than that she had one. Active even. As for with who and when, that was off limits. Got some good tips on writing, and on journalism. I even have an autographed copy somewhere of one of her books, as she gave them out to our class.

I remember an energy and intensity to her that was distinct. It is hard to describe, but it would be hard to imagine her as hesitant or scared. She was passionate on a number of issues, and that came through loud and clear. What she would think of my politics today, I don’t know, but the one thing I am sure of is that we could and would talk. It might get loud, it might get passionate, but there would be genuine discussion, unlike so many today.

As with all real people, she was complex. There are things where I agree with her fully, and parts where I disagree. The fun is in discussing the differences.

I do wish I could have sat down with her again before she died. Thing is, had any one of us in that class contacted her, I think she would have. She would have wanted to know what we did, were doing, etc. Most of all, were we doing our job as journalists and making the right people uncomfortable.

Thank you Glenn, for sparking that memory cascade. Maybe some more of it will surface, but for now I have an amazing memory of a remarkable person restored.