University of South Carolina communications department dean Charles Bierbauer responds to the outrage following my recent speeches:
Understanding why a journalist chooses to cover a war is a challenge. That challenge was laid before students and faculty Tuesday when freelance journalist David Axe made two presentations on his experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Chad, Lebanon and other nasty, risky places to conduct his business.
In Afghanistan, Axe was riding in an army vehicle that detonated an IED. He explained to a visual communications class how he told that story of destruction, though mercifully not death, in different ways for different media. It kicked off a discussion about editing and self-censorship. To me, Axe sounded rather anti-war.
Later, speaking to another group, Axe said he “would be terrified if there were no wars” because he’d be out of the only job he’s good at. The Daily Gamecock reported on Axe’s speech and editorialized that Axe may enjoy his job “too much.” The Gamecock admonished that a “sick fascination with violence and death should inhabit no part of a war reporter’s mind.”
Agreed. The healthier fascination is to explore why wars take place, who stands to profit, who loses (almost always non-combatants) and what are sufficient national interests worth going to war and the inevitable conundrum — how many lives are a bearable cost. Don’t gasp. Strategic planners in the White House and Pentagon ask themselves these questions.
The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies brought Axe to campus — he’s a South Carolinian — as part of our annual I-Comm Week. The whole point of I-Comm Week is to engage students, faculty and the community with professionals, alumni and other experts in a conversation that extends our knowledge of the fields for which we are preparing our students.