EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the October 10, 2005, issue of National Review.
TO: All News Staff
As many of you know, there have been several disturbing instances of depression and depression-related events in the newsroom and in some of the other bureaus.
A reporter on the White House beat, unbeknownst to us, had been suffering severe depression since November 3, 2004, and recently ran amok in the interns’ break room, doing great injury to himself and others. The apparent trigger of the event–President Bush’s plummeting poll numbers seemed, for a moment, to be improving–was all the more troubling because, as everyone on the news staff knows, President Bush is a president struggling with illegitimacy, and his wholesale commitment to the far-right Christian wing of the Republican party is bringing his administration closer and closer to collapse each day. It truly is a matter of waiting it out. Running crazed among our college summer staff, and swinging a heavy computer keyboard, seems completely unnecessary.
If this were an isolated incident, we might be accused of overreacting. But the trouble doesn’t end there. Our Iraq and Afghanistan correspondents are reporting increased levels of stress and stress-related disorders. Two have requested immediate medical leave, suffering from both acute depression and chronic fatigue in the wake of the recent successful elections in both of those countries. Several have found it difficult and extremely stressful to maintain the relentlessly negative perspective we all expect and that they naturally demand of themselves. As the Iraqi people begin the process of ratifying a new constitution, and as the sporadic and deadly insurgency sputters along with intermittent and dwindling effectiveness, it’s become difficult for all of us–news staff and management, here and abroad–to remember that the war in Iraq is a crucial must-win conflict for the news media. We may be tempted to throw in the towel, to pull out, as it were, and declare “victory” for the administration. But this news organization owes it to itself and to its readers and viewers to rededicate its efforts toward maintaining the aura of failure, hopelessness, near-chaos, and quagmire we’ve so bravely kept up for the past three years. As of this writing, two BBC correspondents and an Agence France-Presse photographer have taken their own lives. The best way to honor their memory is to keep searching for the tragic detail, the orphaned-boy-turned-terrorist, the rotten tree in the forest…
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