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A Memo From The Foreign Editor

The following arrived in my inbox with morning headlines from the foreign desk. It helped me decide to throw away my job.

New York, September 11, 2002

Friends,

On this solemn date, a year on, I want to thank you all for extraordinary work that has contributed in no small measure to some of the finest newspapers ever published by The New York Times. It has been an exhausting, sometimes painful year for everyone, but also an uplifting one. Every day, from every corner of the world, you have filed the stories that ensure that our report sets the standard in international reporting. Here on the desk, I am in awe of the commitment and dedication of everyone to ensuring and sharpening our excellence.

The pressures of the last year have been enormous. We all need a break from such pressures from time to time. I want to appeal to you all to take time off when needed to be with your families and friends. There is life beyond newspapering.

My greatest regret of the past year is that, having started on September 11, I found myself with little opportunity to get out of here and visit you. I intend to try to rectify that over the next year, starting with Mexico some time in the next month. To judge by the President’s plans, the first half of next year may be busy. But whatever happens, I will make a serious effort to spend more time on the road with all of you.

Al Siegal today mentioned Reston’s limpid lede the day after the Kennedy assassination: “America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young President, but for itself.” From the horror of a year ago, and from every expression of the mystery of the human heart, you also have crafted journalism of riveting power.

It’s my daughter’s birthday today. She’s five. So tonight, beyond the suffering indelibly associated with this day, I will celebrate life. Thank you all for doing so day after day by chronicling its every nuance and its every possibility.

Roger

*****

What could one say in response to such a blowhard?

Several years later I sent the paper this:

To the Editor:

Roger Cohen (“Imagined Snipers, Real Challenges“, column, March 27) says “a seven-year dose” of “braggadocio from the White House” is quite enough.

Had they not already been killed by its policies, I suspect hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would agree.

So what was Mr Cohen’s response to the “bungled” war strategy when it was being devised, and might yet have been stopped (to say nothing of the lies that sold it)? A whisper of sotto voce braggadocio.

“To judge by the President’s plans,” he wrote to Times foreign staff on September 11, 2002, “the first half of next year may be busy.”

Without fear or favor indeed.

Daniel Simpson
London, March 27, 2008

The writer was a reporter for the Times in the Balkans

Needless to say, this wasn’t Fit To Print.

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