By Taylor Forrest
He walks into the anticipated and energy-charged room carrying a copy of his book “War.” He remains standing while introductions are methodically passed around the room in a semi-circle fashion. Once everyone has exchanged pleasantries, he settles into a chair, leaning back slightly portraying his abrupt confidence and ease.
The press conference has begun.
Sebastian Junger, award-winning author and American journalist, met with media at a press conference March 5 on campus immediately preceding his Docking Lecture.
There was one room, six individuals, 18 questions, and a stupendous amount of exhumed vital information.
Junger initially discussed his early life and the decisions that led him to become a war correspondent. Before doing freelance work, he worked as a high climber and took down trees from top to bottom. Although he thought this was an amazing and entertaining occupation, he wanted to pursue journalism more.
“I just decided to go to war, and I went to Bosnia at age 31 to do freelance work,” said Junger. “And I suggest that anyone who wants to be a war correspondent do just that. You have to just go someplace and start reporting.”
Junger talked about the time he spent as a war correspondent and the years before that, but he also broached the dangers of being a war correspondent, especially in light of the numerous disappearances and beheadings of journalists in Syria due to the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS, in my opinion, is intentionally and provocatively trying to precipitate an over religious war and they don’t need journalists to get their message out,” said Junger. “It seems as more time goes by these radical groups are more and more willing to use violence.”
Along with this he responded to an article that stated that being a war correspondent is no longer worth the risk of the career. Junger no longer reports from warzones because his risk tolerance dropped after losing his friend and colleague, Tim Hetherington, but he is still grateful for the individuals that continue to do warzone freelancing.
“Risk is a personal decision for everybody. I think going into Syria is not worth the risk because you are almost guaranteed to be kidnapped and possibly beheaded,” said Junger. “But there are ways to be a war correspondent without going to Syria, but it’s up to the individual what they decide.”
While he talked about the physical dangers often presented to war correspondents, he also discussed the danger that deceitful journalists create. “Deliberately misinforming the public is a real sin. When you represent the truth as a journalist and you try to create a political reality that you can’t create with the absolute truth, you have sinned,” said Junger. “It’s a very real betrayal of the social contract.”
With this, Junger addressed the Brian Williams scandal that surrounds his embellished story of getting his helicopter shot down while reporting in a warzone. Williams, former anchor and editor for NBC Nightly news, has been suspended for six months without pay because of this scandal.
“He lied and it’s clear he lied. Journalism and lying don’t go together and once you lie, you are done. That’s it,” said Junger. “I’m sure he is a perfectly nice guy, but I’m fonder of my profession than I am of him, so I think the right thing happened.”
Dalton Carver, communication senior, was one of the reporters that attended the press conference and noticed the honesty that engulfed Junger’s persona.
“If I could personify journalistic truth and transparency, it would have to be Junger,” said Carver. “There is no embellishment or beating around the bush with Junger, only the truth.”
Sara Weinert, vice president for communications, was also present during the press conference and while she thought Junger shared wonderful information, she appreciated Junger’s thoughtfulness.
“Sometimes stars or people of importance just blow off answers, but you could tell that he was really thinking about each question and responding with his mind,” said Weinert. “He wasn’t just responding with things he had said before and written before, he was thinking about each question and responding thoughtfully.”
“Junger could come off as slightly abrupt, but I think that is because he is so intelligent and I think that he has encountered difficult situations that it has kind of cut away the fluff and has left him extremely truthful,” said Weinert.
Junger’s truth and resolve carried on from the conference room to the Docking Lecture. Junger primarily spoke about courage during the Docking Lecture, but he also talked about his experiences of war, his political views and anthropological expertise.
Junger, a proclaimed atheist, still holds firmly to a belief system. His belief resides in truth in journalism.
“You need to show the world in a way that is new to people,” said Junger. “You need to throw light on human drama, but the most important thing is that it needs to be factual and completely honest.”
To view additional coverage from the Docking Lecture, click here.
Taylor Forrest is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org