Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nothing Fake About Jeffrey Gettleman's News

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The press has been taking a terrible beating over the past year. It appears to be open season on reporters, bloggers, and journalists. Anyone who questions the hard work, integrity, and sacrifice that newspaper employees expend to bring the truth of the world to caring readers should dip their toes into Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman's memoir of his ten years reporting from east Africa.

I'll admit that I wasn't sure I would enjoy spending time with Gettleman. He gave the impression of a rather immature, selfish young man on a quest for excitement in the Hemingway tradition. I'm happy to say, that as he wrote and I read, I grew to appreciate his sometimes uncomfortable honesty. I realized that Gettleman was taking readers through his own slow maturation process and that it was well worth the time.

As a college student at Cornell, Gettleman took part in a mission to aid refugees in Kenya and southern Malawi. Africa had invaded his soul. He became fluent in Swahili. Though he had majored in Philosophy, he had a dream of becoming a journalist, writing about Africa for the most prestigious papers in the United States. Remarkably, via such an inauspicious location as Brooksville, Florida, Jeffrey Gettleman hone his craft and ultimately landed the position of East Africa Bureau Chief for The New York Times. What he learned about observing and recording, about what to put in and what to leave out, is a writer's dream.

There's also a love story. His college sweetheart, Courtenay, the one he knew he wanted to be with for the rest of his life, though he often didn't act like it, is one tough, likable gal. An attorney who finally realized that her life with Jeff, if she chose to take that road, would always have to revolve around his career, Courtenay learned video editing and joined him in Africa, working by his side under immensely difficult conditions

Though Jeff expresses his passion for Africa and its people, the joy and sense of home that infuses him when he is there, he has taken some heat for thoughtlessness and insensitivity over the years. He has sometimes put himself in danger for the story and, when that happens, other people's lives are endangered too, people who don't have the wherewithal to contact a publisher's office to request intervention. There are times when he questions whose side he's on and he developed some pretty jaded views of the CIA and their machinations with rebel groups in Somalia.

Still I enjoyed this book tremendously and sensed in Gettleman a sincerity of purpose. He is no phony and is not averse to pointing out his own failures as a man and as a husband. But here's how I know his love for the continent of Africa is true. Courtenay gave birth to their two boys in Nairobi, two little ones who are being immersed in the colors, smells, and beauty of their multicultural surroundings, a gift they will never forget.

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