Out of the Woods / Journalism at its best
The four journalists captured and released by the Libyans last week, including Westport natives Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks -- both award-winning photographers and graduates of Staples High School -- are shining examples of modern journalism at its best.
We should all be proud of them for risking their lives to keep the world informed.
According to the news reports of the Amanpour interview, Gadhafi's son spoke about the arrest of Addatio.
"You know, they entered the country illegally, and when the army liberated the city of Ajdabiyah from the terrorists and they found her [Adagio] there ... they arrested her because you know foreigners in this place." Gadhafi said, according to the interview transcript from ABC News. "But then they were happy because they found out she is American, not European. And thanks to that, she will be free tomorrow."
The news account reported that Spencer Platt, a fellow Staples graduate, class of `89, said the news of Addario and Hicks' whereabouts prompted an emotional reaction throughout the international photojournalism community.
"Everyone's very relieved that this looks like it's going to come to a happy ending," said Platt, who works for Getty Images. "I hope to see the two of them at Compo Beach this summer, and I'm looking forward to doing some fishing with Tyler on Long Island Sound."
There is no doubt whatsoever that this incident is a singularly brave act and is a part of Westport's illustrious history of courageous people stepping forward when they are needed. Jim Honeycutt, Staples media and television teacher who taught Addario in a compute-literacy course, said she showed early "creative promise."
"She was bubbly, warm and friendly," he told the Westport News last week. "At the time, I was introducing my classes to early animation programs on the computer, and she made up this hilarious thing with Santa Claus in his sled with the reindeer."
Gadhafi's son also said that Libyan forces welcomed the American position, but were angry with Europeans and Arabs. Although he did not reference the other three missing journalists, Libyan officials told the New York Times all four would be released.
Platt said the experience that both Hicks and Addario have gained in war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, should have prepared them for covering the strife in Libya. "They're professionals," he said. "These are not naive young people. They've been through many conflicts, and I'm sure they know what they're doing."
It is important to note that this is not the first time the two Westport journalists have distinguished themselves. In 2009, Addario and Hicks shared in the Times' 2009 Pulitzer Prize awarded to a team of newspeople for international reporting.
This past September, Addario was named to "The 2010 Power List -- 20 Women Who Are Rocking the World" -- by O, the Oprah magazine, and in 2009 won a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" award for coverage of events in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, friends of both Staples journalists say none of the celebrity status has changed either of them.
According to an article authored by Timothy Dumas of Westport magazine in March 2006, Addario, Hicks and Platt sometimes attended the same local parties. Hicks and Platt, once archrivals in junior high school, became good friends in high school. They both had a passion for passion for skateboarding, the Westport magazine article said.
Following their graduation from Staples, Hicks earned a B.A. degree in journalism from Boston University, and Addario was awarded a B.A. in international relations and Italian from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Both remain closely attached to Westport and occasionally return to town.
In 2004, Hicks lectured at the Westport Public Library in conjunction with the publication of his book, "Histories Are Mirrors: The Path of Conflict through Afghanistan and Iraq," a compilation of his wartime photos.
As a personal aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Hicks' mother in a local store a few years ago while waiting on line. She knew me as a columnist for this newspaper and proudly told me all about her son. I have been following his work with admiration ever since.
Before the journalists were released, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller released an appropriate diplomatic statement that read: "We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed," Keller said.
This is but one of the many stories about American -- and foreign -- journalists who are putting their live s on the line in the course of doing their jobs. As a newspaperman for 50 years,
I admire their guts and tenacity.
Woody Klein's column appears Wednesdays in the Westport News He is author of Westport, Connecticut, The Story of a New England Town's Rise to Prominence.