Tim Hetherington, the director and producer behind the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo about his time spent as a journalist in Afghanistan, was killed on Wednesday in Misurata, Libya, while working as a photographer during the conflict. Chris Hondros and Guy Martin, also journalists, were critically wounded, though Hondros, on assignment as a photographer for Getty, was not killed as was initially reported when the news broke. (Update: The Times reports that Hondros, too, has passed away.) Michael Christopher Brown, a fourth photographer, was also injured in the mortar attack, though his wounds are less serious, according to the New York Times‘ C.J. Chivers, who is also stationed in Libya. Hundreds of Libyans have been reported dead in the area, which “has been cut off by land from the rest of the country by military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi,” according to Chivers. More on Hetherington and the heartbreaking details inside a grave version of our afternoon media column, Press Clips.
R.I.P.: The photographers were working in the war-torn city where they traveled via the capital, Benghazi, when they were reportedly hit near the front lines by a grenade.
Hetherington was a celebrated conflict photographer, having worked in Afghanistan, Darfur, Liberia and finally, Libya. His family provided the following statement to Vanity Fair, where Hetherington was contributing work:
It is with great sadness we learned that our son and brother, photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, was killed today in Misrata, Libya by a rocket-propelled grenade. Tim will be remembered for his amazing images and his Academy Award-nominated documentary “Restrepo,” which he co-produced with his friend Sebastian Junger.
Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed.
Last year, Hetherington and his filmmaking partner Sebastian Junger spoke to the Voice about their documentary and Hetherington’s words, when read today, are haunting:
“After many years of war reporting, we’ve both gotten to the point of wanting to see people in war not as symbols or illustrations, but as people. Often, war reporters gloss over things. Sebastian talks about that in his book, about how reporters try to deny the excitement of war, when the fact is that war is exciting. We thought, ‘Let’s just show what’s going on out there and not editorialize.’ ”
“You can put me in a really difficult situation, and I will make good images for you,” says Hetherington, a photojournalist who “got into the business of conflict” in 1999 when he covered the civil war in Liberia. “It’s a weird skill set that I’ve mastered,” he says. “I make images under pressure.”
In his last tweet, Hetherington writes, “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”
Vanity Fair also has a remembrance. May he rest in peace and the rest of the journalists working overseas stay safe and make it home.
Elsewhere in much more frivolous news…
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The New York Times has a fascinating story about Henry Goldman, the Bloomberg L.P. reporter who’s assigned to covering his boss, our billionaire mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg. “I can’t think of a more uncomfortable position to be in,” says a fellow journalist who has covered Bloomberg from a more comfortable distance.
Retarded Jokes: A delayed response came through today from Papa Johns, the pizza chain, when a reader alerted them via Twitter that their brand name appeared next to a post on the blog Wonkette that made relentless fun of Sarah Palin’s son Trig Palin, on his birthday, based mostly on the fact that he has Down Syndrome. (Sample punchline: “What’s he dreaming about? Nothing. He’s retarded.”)
The whole thing is very ugly, made more so when conservative bogs can leap ravenously onto an outrage dogpile until you’re left with Andrew Breitbart-backed projects salivating over the evil classlessness of liberal blogs.
It’s a similar circumstance as when us coastal elites mocked Rick Santorum and his family’s reaction to their deceased fetus (they took it home and had their children pose for pictures with it); it can all leave even a Palin or Santorum hater feeling a bit icky.
What it comes down to is the point that Dave Weigel makes at Slate: “Criticize Palin for how she uses her child in political arguments? That’s one thing. Make fun of a kid who was born with a mental impairment? How is that funny?” The same goes for Santorum using his family’s ordeal to make a larger, disgusting anti-choice point — both could be fair game, but require buckets of nuance, which can sometimes be lacking in the irreverent web game.
When it comes to children, and especially death and disability, the line is so faint between jokes that get to a political point and jokes that only serve to undermined larger issues, that it might just be safer to ignore it altogether. Because we all know who generally wins these culture wars. (Hint: it’s not the blogs.)