When some lament the passing of journalism, I’m grateful for real journalists who prove it’s far too early to write the obituary of our profession.
I celebrate Mark Bourrie as a journalist and academic (PhD, history).
A dogged researcher, Bourrie has sifted through centuries of first-hand reporting about Canadian conflicts for his newest work, Fighting Words: Canada’s Best War Reporting.
He begins with the failure of Viking diplomacy in 950 A.D.; follows Elizabethan seadog Martin Frobisher in 1576; and traces Canada’s indigenous people, through hundreds of years of battles, famine and disease that decimated their population and rich cultures.
This is a book of profound loss, but also tribute.
Bourrie honors those who risked their lives to tell the stories of war, wherever that led.
Here’s Gil Purcell, who lost a leg during WWII injuries; he left one of the top jobs in Canadian journalism to work in England during the war.
Here is Ralph Allen, another top journalist, reporting on the horrors of war for civilians.
Without Allen, we wouldn’t know about the bravery of the French nuns at the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and the 120 orphan girls kidnapped from their convent by German soldiers.
Victory. Surrender. Defeat. Peacekeeping and peacemaking. It’s all here.
And then there’s “The Night The Brothel Burned”. Jack Cahill was one of the finest foreign correspondents I ever met. His reports from the Vietnam War go beyond journalism to something better and deeper about the human spirit. To read his work is to know a different Vietnam.
Modern war reporting reminds us of conflicts that changed borders, governments, and international relations, from Sarajevo to Kuwait.
Bourrie reminds us of the price paid by journalists who told those stories, especially Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald, who died in 2009 covering the Afghanistan war.
Please buy Fighting Words at your local bookstore, to support independent booksellers. And if that’s not possible, buy Bourrie’s book through Amazon to support a Canadian devoted to real journalism and real research.