TV reporter shares lessons of war
By KATE SCHOTT | La Crosse Tribune
The innkeepers kept AK-47 assault rifles under the front desk, and she had to crawl in the sand for blocks to avoid snipers.
Those were just two of the memories Martha Teichner has from covering Beirut, Lebanon, for CBS News in 1983.
The 57-year-old woman shared her war recollections Wednesday night as the second speaker of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership 2005-06 lecture series, “Perspectives on the Holocaust.” The event was co-sponsored by the La Crosse Public Library.
Her presentation, “War and Media: The Role of the Journalist in Reporting Conflict,” included her reflections on why genocide still happens throughout the world.
Patricia Boge, community relations coordinator for the La Crosse Public Library, said Teichner was well-qualified to speak about war and conflict. In two decades as a war correspondent for CBS News, Teich-ner covered numerous conflicts, including the Gulf War, Bosnia, the fall of Communism in central and eastern Europe, and the Romanian revolution.
A lack of political will from those who could have stepped in led to the Nazi death camps, Teichner said. And the Holocaust could happen again if much of humanity remains apathetic or hypocritical to world events.
As a witness to history, Teichner said her role is to get the stories that need to be told on the air.
The walking skeletons who silently wait for a bowl of rice.
Seeing two Austrian reporters killed in Yugoslavia.
Women and children used as human shields in Bolivia.
Others she could not show as easily. She could not prove genocide happened in Serbia but when allowed into a prison camp, was able to ask one man why he silently wept.
“I am crying at the sight of people who are free,” he responded through a translator.
“As a journalist, you feel utterly helpless at how hopeless your efforts are at times,” she said. “The best we can do is tell their stories.”
She praised those who try to make a difference: Oskar Schindler, who saved Jews in Poland during World War II, and Bono, the front man for rock group U2, for using his popularity and wealth to bring attention to Third World hunger. She encouraged her audience to consider ways they can help as well.
“Millions die,” she said. “But each individual act of courage ... slowly, excruciatingly slowly, helps balance the scales.”
Kate Schott can be reached at (608) 791-8226 or Kate.Schott@lacrossetribune.com.
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