Two Peters, two great minds, two journalists with totally two different but intruguing life experiences…
When their thoughts collide with one another–BANG!!! It will generate the most miraculous sparks of wisdom.
I attended a fantastic meeting with Peter Arnett, a renowed Pulitzer Prize winner war correspondent, and Peter Herford, former vice president of CBS and now a professor at the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication in Shantou. With the help of my mentor Arnold Zeitlin, who was absent from today’s meeting, I got a front row seat, only three feet away from the main speaker, Mr. Arnett. As the hostess, Darcy Zotter, the director of Public Affairs Section (PAS) vividly described at the beginning of the meeting, that when she first knew she was going to meet Peter Arnett in person, she was dumbfounded. Wide open was her mouth, showing she was shocked by the news. Long before this meeting, I’ve heard of Peter Arnett’s big name through my mentor’s notoriously famous photo of "three big dinosaurs," in which there were he and Peter Arnett and another ancient journalist. Since then I have been curious about the great story of this well-known "dinosaur."
Peter Arnett showed us a number of pictures of himself with his comrades in the battlefields, his Vietnamese wife and two chidren, and the Big Wheels, both the coldblooded and the zealous that he has interviewed, including Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin. In fact, the first-ever television interview with Ladin was conducted by Peter Arnett in eastern Afghanistan in late March 1997. Looking at the pictures, I couldn’t believe the 72-year-old who was standing in front of me had such a daunting adventure. I said to myself, I had shaken hands with him at the beginning of the meeting, did it mean I indirectly shook hands with two American most-wanted men? Wow, what a great "honor" to small potato me!
Peter Arnett talked about his experience as a war correspondent. His bravery and courage reminded me of another well-known journalist from ABC, Bob Woodruff. I happened to watch his interviews with Charles Gibson and David Letterman on TV. No matter it’s Peter Arnett or Bob Woodruff, that they are willing to take risks to report on war has and will inspire people in the long run. That’s something my mentor once said to me: despite that one has gone, his/her spirit lives.
Restricted by time, I didn’t get a chance to raise my questions–
1. As Peter Arnett has worked for Associated Press for 20 years, and CNN for another 20 years, does he agree print journalism can not carry news as lively and directly as TV news which can offer 3-D images and sound to viewers. Based on my personal experience, people seem to pay more attention to what they see on TV than what they read from newspaper in the 21st century. And a reporter from USA TODAY once told me that they had to follow what the TV news report to decide who they interview.
2. As a war correspondent, does Peter Arnett think that images and pictures of the war will arouse more interest from the audience than just plain description about the fact? I notice reports on war are quite often coming along with headline pictures. In that case, will a war photographer play a more important role than a war reporter of revealing the fact? Are war photos necessary or crucial to a news report on war?
Well, other than the wonderful talk and responses by Peter Arnett, another speaker Peter Herford also gave some impressive remarks, one of which had actually striken my sympathic cord. When Peter Arnett was asked how did he feel when his colleagues or team members were killed at war and what was his attitude towards death at that moment, Mr. Herford added, we were not surprised to hear about the violent deaths of our workmates as we’d all known what would happen once we entered the war zone. Yet, some deaths, like people who die out of the blue or die of disease, would bring sorrow and sadness to their family and friends. These kind of deaths would be more difficult to accept because the dead people were not ready for death, they were not ready to suffer. What he said reminded me of my mom who is now in the bout with liver and colon cancer. Indeed, I couldn’t agree more with Peter Herford. Just last night I had a dream about myself being in the exact situation of mom’s–I almost could feel the pain on her. I screamed in my dream. I should be more peaceful to accept if her death is a course of nature.
It was a real pleasure to be with two wise men within 120 minutes in the same room. This is the best upbeat part of my current life that I can share with you all. After the meeting, I had the chance to talk to the distinguished guests briefly and the American consul general’s wife, Sally, who is an antique and Chinese art lover. Everyone has his/her own great story, right?