Words of Fire: Independent Journalists who Challenge Dictators, Drug Lords, and Other Enemies of a Free Press

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If journalism is the first draft of history, then independent journalists are surely its most daring composers.

Along such celebrated and high-profile figures as Christiane Amanpour and Wolf Blitzer, there exists a stratum of journalists—self-employed, working under dire conditions, and with minimal resources—who often place themselves at ground zero of world events. In this gripping account, Anthony Collings takes us into the world of independent journalists, and the daily challenges they face confronting dictators, hostile military, and narcoterrorists. Unfettered by any ties to those in positions of power, these guerrilla journalists are often the first on a story—whether reporting on corruption in Mexico, organized crime in Russia, or sexual scandal in the Middle East—and accordingly face the brunt of their subject's wrath.

Collings, who has himself been held captive while on assignment, here focuses less on those nations in which the press is either largely free (such as the U.S. or Western European democracies) or aggressively restricted (as in China), and more on those "battleground countries" where the eventual outcome of the struggle between state and fourth estate remains unclear. Relying on interviews, professional contacts, and his own experiences, Collings explores the dilemmas and strategies of journalists who persevere in the face of war, repressive governments, and criminal aggression, with particular emphasis on the role of the Internet.

At a time when journalism is increasingly a profession under siege, Words of Fire forces into the spotlight a more positive side of the profession, those who pursue journalism not for profit or fame but as a personal crusade.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tony Collings has performed an invaluable service for brave and determined journalists all over the world with his extraordinarily comprehensive compendium of the threats and dangers they face in doing the kind of accountability reporting we take for granted in the free press of the United States. Those dangers, and many, too many, deaths, are all too real; the light that Tony shines on them should spur efforts like those of the Committee to Protect Journalists to help our brave brothers and sisters safely do the jobs to which they have selflessly dedicated themselves."

-Leonard Downie Jr.,Executive Editor, the Washington Post

"Words of Fire is a breathtaking story of courageous journalists who dare to dare. It is humbling, terrifying and exhilarating. It is a celebration of the freedom to speak and the durability of the human spirit."

-Howard Bossen,Professor and Assistant Director, School of Journalism, Michigan State University

"An absorbing, rich rendition of courageous journalism in places where a free press is not taken for granted. Journalists die every day, at the hands of dictators, drug lords and terrorists. Tony Collings knows their business and tells their stories with a style that keeps the pages turning."

-Ken Bode,Dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, and Former Moderator, PBS's "Washington Week in Review"

"Journalism shorn of alleged glamour is seriously hard and, too many times, deadly work. Collings documents this—well."

-Bernard Shaw,Former CNN Principal Anchor

"With gossip and insignificant events often dominating today's news, we tend to forget the important role reporters can play in society. Anthony Collings, who worked for many years in print and television, demonstrates how journalism should rise above trivial pursuits and can influence what happens in the world."

-Christopher Harper,Roy H. Park Distinguished Professor, Ithaca College; Producer, ABC's 20/20; Bureau Chief, ABC News, Rome and Cairo; Bureau Chief, Newsweek; Beirut Correspondent, Newsweek, Washington, and Chicago

Library Journal
The commitment Collings shares with the journalists he profiles is awe-inspiring, and the life-threatening risks that they take to maintain the ideals of a free press will shatter the skepticism with which most Americans view our media...Recommended for all journalism collections and libraries supporting interest in contemporary world events.
A former reporter for and the , Collings (journalism, U. of Michigan) describes how independent journalists have suffered attack for their work and how they are developing more effective ways to fight the repression. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814716052
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Newsweek's former London and Bonn bureau chief and previously a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Anthony Collings came to the University of Michigan as the Howard R. Marsh Professor of Journalism and now teaches in the Department of Communication Studies. Captured and held at gunpoint while reporting for CNN from Beirut, Collings has shared an Emmy for his reporting on the Oklahoma City bombing.

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Table of Contents

Map: World Press Freedom
Introduction 1
I Looking for Trouble: The Behavior of Independent Journalists
1 "They Are the News": Facing Mexican Druglords 13
2 She Had to Be There: Taking Risks in Russia 26
3 Opening the Door: Courage in Asia 36
4 Guerrilla Journalists: Underground in Nigeria 44
5 A Precious Pen: Defiance around the World 53
II Pushing the Envelope: Stories That Trigger Attack
6 The General's Mercedes: Crime and Corruption 65
7 A Veiled Woman: The Separatists 77
8 Brother against Brother: Civil War 89
9 In the Thick of It: Protests and Riots 99
10 Money at Stake: Economic Secrets 105
11 The President's Mistress: Exposes 113
12 We Are Not Amused: Satire 120
III Shoot the Messenger: Types of Attacks on Journalists
13 We Have Ways: Violence and Imprisonment 135
14 We Have Other Ways: Legal and Economic Pressures 142
IV The Messenger Reacts: Responding to Attacks
15 Chilled or Defiant: The Painful Choice 153
16 Cat and Computer Mouse: Using the Internet 167
17 The Great Firewall: China and the Internet 186
18 Send in Uncle Walter: Advocacy Groups 195
Conclusion: Tomorrow's News: The Outlook 210
Notes 225
Bibliography 253
Index 255
About the Author 269
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2001

    Courageous journalists

    Colling's book profiles journalists throughout the world who are on the front line of the battle for a free press. These stories are presented in a vivid and interestng style by a veteran newsman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2001

    Powerful and compelling...people who put their lives on the line for freedom

    Words of Fire should be mandatory reading if you're a journalist, student, historian or news junkie. In today's world of reality television and saturation coverage of salacious stories, it is most refreshing to find a book with substance and depth. Mr. Collings has obviously done his homework.

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