These are the things journalists need

April 20th, 2005

I’m a journalism student at Seattle University. In my Senior Synthesis class today, during our discussion on war correspondence, my professor handed out a photocopy of this article. It’s a list of things (compiled by the Columbia Journalism Review) that journalists in the Middle East carry in order to survive the job. I realize this is about two years old, but I’m just now getting around to seeing it so I’d like to weigh in my thoughts on these necessities and point out some things I found rather humorous.

Sunglasses, $40-$150. (“Not the mirrored kind because some indigenous tribes in the Middle East think the mirrors allow you to see through women’s burkhas.”)

I don’t know if that quote is true or not (could be made up for all I know), but it’s funny nonetheless.

Money belt, $10, containing $10,000-$15,000 cash in U.S. dollars and/or euro notes to cover one month’s expenses (including lodging, meals, use of press center, driver, fixer, translator, and money for “getting out of emergencies”).

Well here is where the bulk of the cost comes from. $15K in cash on my belt? Jesus, no wonder journalists get kidnapped.

Laptop computer, $2,000, with duct tape over places sand can get into, stored in large ZiplocŪ bag to keep out dust. (IBM or Dell, because “there’s nowhere to service Macs in the Middle East.”)

The accompanying quote that goes with this item strikes me as stupid or maybe they were just trying to be funny, I’m not sure. I’d imagine the amount of computer repar shops in general is fairly dismal. You’d most likely have the same chances of finding someone capable of fixing your Powerbook than someone to fix your Inspiron. Moreover, if i was faced with bringing either a Dell laptop or a Powerbook with me on the road, you can bet I’d pick the Powerbook. Those things are like rocks. Admittedly, the IBM Thinkpads are sturdy too, but if Macs are the computer of choice for rock bands to tour with (not just because of the software), then it’s good enough for me.

Secondly, I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the detriments when you block any and all airflow ducts with tape in order to keep out dust, especially when you’re in the sweltering desert heat. The chances of your computer getting gunked up with sand go down, but the chances of your processor going up in flames increase dramatically.

Syringes. (“Iraq makes you take an AIDS test at the border. If you can’t talk them out of it, you will want to use your own needle.”)

I’d wager that the Iraqi officials requiring you to take an AIDS test upon entering the country don’t do it because they get their kicks from jabbing people with needles. In fact, it’s most probable that they do it to keep their country from being infested with an AIDS epidemic. If you have to “talk them out of it” then I think you’re coming into the country with the wrong frame of mind. That’s not to say it’s unwise to B-Y-O-Syringe.

L.L. Bean wrinkle-resistant travel blazer, $179 (“for interviews”).

Yes, because when you’re wearing a wrinkle-resistant blazer the person you’re talking to won’t notice that you haven’t showered in six days (god bless those baby wipes!) and that you’re wearing sand-encrusted cargo pants.

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