We live in a world at the moment in which in many areas it feels as though the darkness is falling ever more severely on whole swathes and regions of the world, and in which the light of news very often seems to go out. Whole areas where there is fighting that is forgotten because there is simply so much of it. Whole areas which depend only on the likes of James Foley and Steven Sotloff to show some light on what is happening.
The front-line reporter is the one who sees first-hand what is going on. They are the look-outs, who stand on the watchtower, day after day and all night long, in the watches of the night. “Watchman, how goes the night?”, as Isaiah described it from two and a half thousand years ago. They are the ones who witness the full horror of what is going on and dare to speak it. The rest of us are one step, or many steps, removed ”“ both from the adrenalin and from the agony. We rely on the reports. And the nature of the reports has become more and more immediate, of that we can be thankful.
I remember as a child being shown a letter from an ancestor who had been in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and wrote to his mother that evening to reassure her that he was alive and unhurt and to describe the battle. In those days things were heard by word of mouth, by propaganda. It was the bush telegraph, famously unreliable, exceptionally partial and profoundly delayed.