Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Passion for Journalism

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Passion for Journalism

Article excerpt

A QUESTION sometimes asked by earnest young journalism students these days is whether the profession holds any future for them.

Can fledgling journalists with a sense of principle still make it in a profession that seems increasingly competitive and obsessed with conflict, one that has been caught in some flagrant ethical corner-cutting (such as NBC's recent use of incendiary rockets to simulate the explosion of a GM truck)?

Well, of course they can. There are charlatans in journalism as in any profession, but that only underlines the need for new arrivals of integrity. There is no contradiction between a strongly held sense of morality, and such qualities highly prized in journalism as perception, resourcefulness, tenacity.

I wish that troubled would-be reporters could have spent an hour or two with David Willis, who passed on last week after a career of passionate absorption with journalism.

Few could rival his verve, his energy, in pursuit of the story. He had a directness that characterizes his fellow Australians; their impatience with bureaucracy and protocol that seems charmingly saucy to some, but borders on irreverence to others. But the whimsical way with which he regarded the frailties of the world around him could not disguise a deep and serious commitment to the quest for truth in both his professional and personal life.

Much of David's career was spent on The Christian Science Monitor, to which newspaper he added lustre. He covered the State Department in Washington and became a regular panelist on the PBS show "Washington Week in Review."

After Washington came Tokyo, and when I became the Monitor's editor, I brought him home as editor in charge of domestic coverage. In the transition from correspondent to editor he lost none of his competitiveness. He plunged into the assignment with zeal - goading, cajoling, and encouraging his correspondents around the country.

One target of his competitiveness was Geoffrey Godsell, his opposite number in charge of overseas news coverage, a man of awesome knowledge. Each day, competing for space on Page 1 and throughout the paper, they made an engaging pair of good-humored rivals; Geoffrey the quintessential Englishman, a proudly plump gourmet, ex-Cambridge, ex-Royal Navy, ex-BBC, and David, ex-Sydney street reporter and New York night school, lean despite a diet of noontime hamburgers between phone calls to his bureaus, always pushing to the edge. …

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