By: Christopher Newton, Associated Press Writer
(AP) For the former colleagues and competitors of slain reporter Daniel Pearl, a black-tie awards gala offered a moment of pause — a chance to reflect on the terrible price that can come with covering conflict in the dangerous corners of the world. The hotel ballroom was thick with melancholy and those who took the stage gave a final toast to Pearl’s dedication and courage.
“Daniel Pearl went to where the story was,” said CBS News’ Bob Schieffer at the National Press Foundation’s annual awards dinner on Thursday. “He didn’t have to go, but he went because he wanted to get it right. That’s what we’re supposed to do — get it right.”
Pearl, a 38-year-old reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in January after arranging to interview the leader of a radical Muslim faction with purported ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Thursday, the State Department said the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan received evidence that Pearl is dead.
Almost every reporter who walked up to the podium made a tribute to Pearl and rallied around the Journal.
CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather said Washington was a “stiller town because we do not have Daniel Pearl.”
Rex Babin, an editorial cartoonist at The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee said he would give his son an extra hug tonight. A slide show of his work was a moment of levity for the evening.
The night also provided a chance to talk about purpose — and acknowledge that journalists have become a part of the story.
Terrorism “has affected us directly,” said Jill Abramson, The New York Times‘ Washington bureau chief.
Schieffer said “we are all Americans and we are all in it together.”
Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul E. Steiger was scheduled to receive an award. Instead, he missed the ceremony and Washington bureau chief Alan Murray read a statement.
“This was a challenging year,” Steiger wrote. “Today it has produced heartbreak of the most devastating sort.” Pearl wrote “stories of the powerful and powerless. … Daniel Pearl knew how dangerous that could be — but he didn’t seek danger, he sought truth,” the statement said.
Earlier, Steiger broke the news about Pearl’s death to newsroom employees in the paper’s Washington offices.
The newspaper has already been rocked by a rough year.
Another popular reporter, aerospace writer Jeff Cole, died Jan. 24, 2001, in a small plane crash while on assignment in Colorado. Disappointing financial conditions led to layoffs at the newspaper and elsewhere in its parent company, Dow Jones. And when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, the debris badly damaged the newspaper’s New York headquarters in lower Manhattan, forcing the paper to relocate its operations temporarily to New Jersey.