WSJ editor recalls slain reporter, Sept. 11

For Yale students facing finals, stress is having to learn a semester of material in one week.

For Paul Steiger ’64, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, stress is having hundreds of checks from subscribers voided as they pass through the steam machines implemented in response to anthrax threats, having your headquarters located across the street from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th, and being caught in the middle of the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, star reporter and friend.

At a Pierson College master’s tea yesterday, Steiger highlighted some of the more dramatic events of the last year for the Journal, beginning with a description of Sept. 11 from his perspective. He said that staff members were driven from their office and that many came close to being injured or killed.

“Even without our office we were still able to print one of our best papers ever on September 12th, and our efforts were recently recognized with a Pulitzer Prize,” he said. “It took every single staff member working at 110 percent capacity.”

Steiger also said that the year has been especially difficult because the Journal has lost three staff members, including Pearl, an aerospace editor who died in a fighter plane crash in Denver, and a more senior editor who died of brain cancer three days after Pearl’s death.

Steiger said that after learning that Pearl was lured into what would prove to be a fatal kidnapping in Pakistan, he received an e-mail from someone associated with the kidnappers.

“It was not directed against him as a journalist, or more specifically as a reporter for the Journal. It was rhetoric directed against him as an American,” he said.

Steiger said that attempts to strike at the United States by kidnapping rest on “ill-focused reasoning” but that kidnappers are certainly aware that if their victim is a journalist, the story will by nature get more coverage.

Even after emphasizing the vital role of journalism in uncovering the truth, Steiger said that the Journal is wary of sending journalists into extremely dangerous situations, adding that journalists are not allowed to go to the front lines of battlegrounds unless under extreme circumstances. He also said that he recently told all reporters who cover international stories that they can be reassigned at no risk to their career, adding that no one has taken him up on the offer.

When asked about his opinion on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, Steiger said that the two sides might have to withstand a “test of strength” before they are ready to negotiate a settlement.

“If an agreement is not reached by them,” he said, “then our ability to impose it is nil.”

He also said there are very strong and equally natural anti-American interests in foreign countries–interests that will not be easy to dispel.

“The Yankees win the pennant every year. Soon, everyone wants to see them fall,” he said. “We’re like the Yankees.”

Many audience members said they were drawn to the tea because of the topic’s relevance to current world events.

“I am very interested in the media process,” local resident Bob Bloch said. “I know that society is sculpted by the media, and that the media is sculpted by society,” he said.

Others said they came because of the timely nature of the tea.

“I found this to be very relevant given the Daniel Pearl tragedy and the Journal’s important coverage of September 11th,” Eli Weiss ’02 said.

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