In writing this, I’m overwhelmed by how many lessons I’ve learned the past six years. I feel like everything I believe as a journalist has come from Phil. Through him, I learned to speak truth to power. I learned to fear assumptions and the chauvinism and bias they bring. I learned to embrace the gray in stories that are always too black and white. Perhaps most important, I learned to be quiet. It was another lunch, a few months into the war, and Phil scolded me for stories that had too much drama. There was too much shouting, too much gunfire. They were too loud, he said, and I realized then that quiet journalism is often the best.
When that year ended, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the attention. I felt undeserving, a little unworthy. Phil took me to the side. He seemed to sense what was on my mind. It’s not about you, I remember him telling me, it’s about your work, and the work can stand on its own. On that day, he had become a friend.
The work that I and other foreign correspondents do is going extinct. Sitting in southern Iraq tonight, trying to make sense of another story, I realize that. The same could probably be said about American journalism, at least as we’ve understood it. And at perhaps its most critical time – when we have to rethink it and reimagine it – we have to face the fact that we’ve lost its most courageous, brilliant voice. Journalism feels a little untethered to me, and the Post feels a lonelier place.