War Zones: The Changing Environment for Foreign Correspondents

Wednesday, September 9–
Thursday, September 10, 2009

RICHARD N. HAASS: Let me welcome one and all to the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship of the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you all for being here. And, just to be clear in the way of housekeeping, the entire two-day event is on the record. I believe the media in this room knows what that means. And it's being webcast live on the CFR website, CFR.org. Please bookmark it.

Now I'm going to say the most preposterous thing of the evening. Please turn off your Blackberries. I'm sure there's no one who works for a media organization who needs to stay in touch. So please turn them off, though, because they do interfere with the sound system here.

Let me begin by giving a special welcome to the nearly two dozen former fellows who have come from near and far, as well as to Kim Barker, who just arrived from Pakistan two days ago. We're also delighted to have a fellow from the first decade of the fellowship. Harry Heintzen was selected in 1956 by a committee of three -- (laughter) -- one of whom, I should point out, was Edward R. Murrow himself. Yeah, not bad.

So let me ask all the fellows in the room to stand and acknowledge those who are joining us by live webcast. So, please, those who are former fellows, let's see who you are. (Applause.)

You will see in your program a special dedication to two former fellows -- Elizabeth Neuffer and Welles Hangen, who were killed in the line of duty. And this underscores just how dangerous this line of work can be. Indeed, we meet here just one day following the escape of Stephen Farrell of the New York Times in Afghanistan. And while Maziar Bahari of Newsweek and others are imprisoned in Iran.

It's not just dangerous work; it's important work. I often note that the world is not Las Vegas. What happens there does not stay there. Instead, it comes here and it affects life here. And foreign correspondents provide not just history's first draft, but the reporting that is essential if the citizenry in a democracy is to understand the world, and if a democracy such as ours is to be able to make informed decisions about the world.

I'd like to thank the members of our Murrow Selection Committee, chaired this year by Carla Robbins of the New York Times. Each year in the late fall the committee has the daunting task of making a selection from a pool of extraordinarily talented nominees. And since 1949, approximately one per year, the council has been honored to host over 60 fellows, many of whom still devote their life to journalism.

And we would not have been able to do all this without funding from the Carnegie Corporation in those early years and later from the CBS Foundation, when the fellowship was actually renamed the Edward R. Murrow Fellowship in 1965.

On behalf of the council, I want to publicly thank the Ford Foundation for providing the funding this year, part of which is in a challenge grant. And I want to thank Time Warner for being the first to respond. And with more support, we'll be able to keep this fellowship going, but also to expand the work we do on this set of issues that we're going to be discussing tonight and tomorrow, and to make permanent an annual event such as this. So this is a fellowship with a grand tradition and we are ambitious about what we would like to do in the future.

As I expect many of you know, the goal of the program is to promote the quality of responsible and discerning journalism that exemplified the work of Edward R. Murrow during his life. What some of you may not know, though, is he was an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations and became a member at the tender age of 25. He therefore lowered the average age of this organization considerably -- (laughter) -- and were he still alive, he would probably be far from the oldest member of this organization. (Laughter.) But I digress.

Richard Hottelet, a journalist and a Council on Foreign Relations member for more than half a century now, who worked closely with Ed Murrow, is here with us tonight, and Dick talks about Murrow as -- and I quote him here -- "a driven man; driven to tell people what was going on in the world." And Dick said that that is what moved him and he took it very seriously.

And the result is a nine-month fellowship at the council which offers journalists who cover international affairs the rare opportunity to engage in the luxury of sustained analysis and writing, free from the deadlines and many of the pressures that characterize the life of a journalist.

I hope you will meet the fellows tonight. And we've put red dots on their nametags just to highlight them at the reception afterwards. You can read about them on CFR.org/Murrow, which is a new online feature that was launched today.

Now, I understand that -- (laughter) -- coincidentally. Now, I understand that we do not operate in a vacuum here. And rumor has it that an important speech will be given later this evening. So, for those of you who want to watch it, we have set up a monitor here, I believe -- will be set up at about 8:00 tonight. Is that correct? Yep. Heads are nodding in the north-south direction.

So, for those of you who want to watch that tonight, you can. For those of you who want to continue partying, however, that will be an option too, and we will not report you to your bosses if you choose the drinking over the viewing.

Tomorrow morning there is going to be three more sessions, and it's an extraordinary lineup of subjects and of individuals, as you will see in the program for today.

We're honored to have someone who is special in many ways moderating our first session. It's CNN's chief international correspondent. She's also the anchor of a new prime time half-hour program on CNN coincidentally titled "Amanpour." (Laughter.) It's amazing how they think of these things. It launches in this country on September 21 on CNN International and the U.S. version will launch on September 27.

In her nearly two decades as an international correspondent, Christiane has reported on just about all the major crises around the world, and her work has earned her Television Academy Honors: nine news and documentary Emmys, four George Foster Peabody Awards, two George Polk Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, the Courage in Journalism Award, and even an Edward R. Murrow Award.

The only thing missing from her resume as best I can tell is she has never been an Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is great to take time out to do this tonight.

She will introduce the extraordinary group of individuals that we have assembled. Christiane, thank you, and over to you.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Thank you very much, Richard. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you to everybody who I'm going to introduce in a second, but I just wanted to say that I was at the Walter Cronkite Memorial today and I was reminded and re-inspired about the power of this business and about the power of this profession.

And he was not just America's Uncle Walter nor America's favorite uncle and anchor; he was a war correspondent. That is how he started back in World War II. And the tribute to him played by veterans of World War II and others, mentioning all of what he did throughout those years and beyond, were really a stark and wonderful, timely reminder about how important this profession is and how amazingly he wielded that profession, and also a reminder, which we'll discuss today, about the threats and the changing environment to this profession. So, without further ado, let me introduce our distinguished panel.

First here is Kim Barker, who is about to be this year's Edward R. Murrow Fellow, and she is the former South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune. That means Afghanistan, Pakistan, the tsunami, all the big stories that have happened in that region over the last several years.

Next to her is Mohamad Bazzi, the adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, and of course a former Edward R. Murrow fellow.

And Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press, special correspondent who has also covered all that has to be covered in the region of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the very important pre-9/11 and post-9/11 realities in that region.

And over to the far left over there, my friend, Christopher Dickey, who is the Paris bureau chief -- it's a great, great job -- (laughter) -- and the Middle East editor for Newsweek, based in Paris, and of course also a former Murrow fellow.

Now, there are many aspects to the dangers and the changing environment for a foreign correspondent and a war correspondent. There is the actual danger, the physical danger. There is injury and death. There is also the dearth of foreign correspondents.

There's the different delivery systems, there is the questions about content, and of course there is our changing journalistic environment. So we're going to try to get to all of those. And of course when I introduce and ask them questions they're also free to jump in and talk amongst themselves and not just wait for me to direct them.

Let me first talk about, obviously, what was on the front page of the New York Times today, and that's Stephen Farrell and what happened. And it appears that he was rescued by a British commando team. But he came out; his fixer was killed.

Let me ask Kathy first, who's really worked in that area a lot, what are the dangers today on the ground for foreign correspondents going to try to cover areas such as insurgent-filled parts of Afghanistan?

KATHY GANNON: The dangers are very real. And I think the problems too is you have so many that just come in briefly and quickly, and so they don't know the environment very well, and so they maybe don't do enough research and so they put themselves in harm's way when maybe a little bit more research would have helped.

I think that we've also, post-9/11, with the whole practice of embeds and that, that we've also sort of been maybe a little bit confusing to the people we cover.

AMANPOUR: What, do you think they're getting mixed messages about what side you're on, or are you on a side?

GANNON: Yeah, I think sometimes, you know, there is the mixed messages because they can't differentiate. You're standing beside a soldier but you're taking notes. And you know who you are but, you know, there might be people in that environment that, you know, they don't -- they could be Taliban, they could be -- and they don't differentiate anymore perhaps between, you know, whether they're military, non-military.

I also think that we -- to me what is a big concern is our fixers and our translators and that, that we somehow don't give them the -- we take risks unnecessarily with them. We aren't being responsible enough about them.

There have been several cases in Afghanistan, for example, where the fixers have been killed; an Italian who was -- they paid for him and then his fixer journalist -- I mean, he was really a journalist; he wasn't just a fixer -- I mean, not even just, but he was beheaded.

The other day the -- you know, I mean, there's so many instances where our fixers -- just last week a close colleague friend of mine was shot in the head in Peshawar because he had gone and interviewed Taliban and they didn't like how it was reported. And he had done it for different organizations, and he was targeted and was killed.

So I think that it's become much more insecure, and I think that we have not maybe risen to the challenge in how to make our job possible in this environment by changing things a little.

AMANPOUR: This is -- let me just go to Chris for a second.

CHRISTOPHER S. DICKEY: I think there is a big structural problem here. We're just not as important as we used to be. I mean, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you went and covered a war and if you were the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, CNN, god knows, you were an important person. Everybody recognized that.

And that was really -- if they wanted to get their message out, it didn't matter what side of the conflict they were on or you were covering because they had to talk to you. Now they don't have to talk to us. They've got lots of people to talk to.

I mean, al Qaeda has its own television network, for god's sake, and they don't feel that they need us. That right there makes us much more vulnerable -- much more vulnerable than we used to be, and it makes the people who work with us more vulnerable as well.

Always in wars, you're always going to say what you're seeing. People parachute in; they get killed. We always say that. People take too many risks. They take -- they make their stringers and their fixers take too many risks.

Those are all givens. That has happened for a long time. People have been killed; fixers have been killed for a long time. But there is no deterrent anymore. There is really nothing that keeps them distant.

And I think this was really clear as of -- it was getting clearer over time, but by 2003 in Iraq it was really clear. Newsweek made a decision we were not going to do any embeds. We had people -- me, Rod Nordland, Scott Johnson, a lot of people -- we all had decided to try and get into Iraq through different angles, different approaches, and the people who went across the line from Kuwait lasted about an hour before they literally had their cars shot out from under them.

AMANPOUR: So how did the others get in?

DICKEY: People went in through Kurdistan. In fact, Scott Johnson is the guy I'm thinking of. He was a young correspondent and worked with me a lot. He and Luc Delahaye went in, and Luc got through the checkpoints and Scott had his car shot out from under him and we thought for about 24 hours that we'd lost him. What he wound up doing was sticking out his thumb, hitching a ride with the military and embedding after that because that was the only way to stay alive.

AMANPOUR: You wanted to add something about --

KIM BARKER: Well, I just wanted to say that I actually don't think there is a mixed message, and I think we're very important. We're dollar signs. And people see us -- we're white. A lot of us are white. We're going down the road. We're going to meet the Taliban. I mean, what could be easier to kidnap? I mean, what could be easier to get $100,000 here, $200,000 here?

That's the change. We're now not seen as a reporter; we're seen as a target. We're seen as a way to get a lot of money, and we're seen as a way to get their message out very easily. They kidnap us, I mean, it's going to be all over the front pages of different newspapers. That is, if we're not --

AMANPOUR: So what do you do?

BARKER: Well, what you do is -- look, in the last two-and-a-half years, as far as I can tell -- and there could be more, but there have been at least eight journalists kidnapped in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Every single one of them have been somebody who has parachuted in to either Pakistan or Afghanistan and who have gone there specifically with the intent of going out and getting that story that no resident correspondent is, I guess, brave enough to get. The fact of the matter is we kind of know the situation more and we're not going to go driving off to meet the Taliban. And at a certain point it just was no longer seen as safe to do.

So that's the goal. You just have got to be safer. You don't go off driving off to meet the Taliban anymore. I mean, one of these journalists was actually a Dutch porn columnist, seriously. And then there has been this whole movement to censor the news. We don't write about it anymore. A journalist is kidnapped, we no longer write about it. An aid worker is kidnapped on the side of the street, we write about it.

GANNON: And we write about some journalists that have been kidnapped.


GANNON: We don't write about other journalists that have been kidnapped.

BARKER: Exactly.

GANNON: And if you don't --

BARKER: And it's a double standard --

(Cross talk.)

GANNON: That we're party to.

BARKER: That we're definitely party to.

MOHAMAD BAZZI: Let me add an observation just on what Chris and what Kim said. I think we're also seeing a new strain of Islamic militants who are specifically targeting journalists and who are targeting aid workers as well and NGO workers, and who aren't making that distinction that maybe 20 years ago or 30 years ago in the terrorism of the 1970s you rarely had. You had many factions of the PLO but you rarely had a faction that would actively take journalists hostage and want to kill them.

And that's something that needs to be taken into account by news organizations and by all of us, and that's a grander issue than the mechanics of resident correspondents or someone parachuting in is there are groups and people who want to take journalists hostage and want to kill them.

AMANPOUR: And since this is fundamental, because our job -- I mean, I was in Afghanistan in March for the latest documentary I did -- our job is to go out there and be the eyes and ears and get the facts on the ground. Is there a way that we can push back against this as correspondents on the ground?

GANNON: But I think part of our job too is to have contacts. I mean, we're supposed to be building contacts --


GANNON: -- so you really should have contacts within the Taliban. You should have contacts within the military. You should have contacts -- and I'm not saying that it's easy and I'm not saying -- but, I mean, that's -- as you say, I mean, we have to go out and get the story.

Whether they're targeting you specifically as a journalist so that they can, you know, make -- and it's true; we're dollar signs. I think anyone that is out there is a dollar sign for so many of the criminal element.

AMANPOUR: But they've tried to focus on how do we get the story, get the news, verify it, verify the sources and deliver the information to readers, listeners, viewers.

BARKER: A lot of times you're having to -- I mean, having been in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than five years at this point, you're having to get people to come to you. You've got to verify who they are and you have them come to a safe place and you meet them in the provincial capital or you meet them in Kabul or you meet them in, you know, the Continental Hotel in Kandahar, and you do it that way.

You just have to take precautions. Sometimes you're using local staff. A lot of times when you're going out in Afghanistan or Pakistan you're working through the tribal elders. You're getting a guarantee of safety before you go anywhere, and you're working through the system that exists in Pashtun tribal culture. You're not just sort of driving out there to a scene to see what happens; you're actually taking precautions.

AMANPOUR: So it works.

BARKER: It can work.

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: But it has to be re-tailored.

BARKER: It can work, but --

GANNON: It can work, and it has to be retailored and you have to do the basic things that journalists do -- you know, develop contacts, go out and try to, you know, meet people. You know, I mean, the fundamental things that we've -- this is the way --

(Cross talk.)

DICKEY: Well, this is what really speaks to the issue of parachuting in, I mean, is that you can't begin to just crash into an environment where people are looking to kidnap you, or even 30 years ago in Central America, places like that, you could go back and forth across the lines and eventually you would get shot doing that.

But you would try to develop sources on every side and people who would talk to you and trust you, even if they were connected with organizations like the death squads, much less groups like the guerrillas, the Sandinistas.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely.

DICKEY: Always you've been able to do that, but it takes time. You have to spend a lot of time --

AMANPOUR: And money -- time and money because to have those --

BARKER: Which we don't have anymore.

AMANPOUR: -- permanent correspondents on the ground, permanent producers, permanent fixers to build up the bank of contacts and to really, you know, make the terrain familiar terrain if not friendly terrain, it takes time and money.

What do you tell your students, young people who say they want to go into this job? I mean, they come up to me all the time -- I want to do what you do. I want to do what you do -- and I'm afraid these days to tell them to go and do it. I do, I tell them, listen, it's going to be very difficult; it's going to be dangerous. I advise you to go and try it, but no -- (laughter) -- yeah, I do, I do.

BARKER: Good luck on that one.

DICKEY: And don't parachute in.


BAZZI: I tell them there are places where they're just never going to be able to afford the kidnap and ransom insurance, so we get a certain part of the globe out of the way. But, I mean, it's very difficult. But although a lot of young students are interested in doing what many of us did in terms of living someplace and really developing those contacts.

I mean, unfortunately they don't have the institutional support in most of those cases, but they're definitely willing to invest the time and the years it will take to do this.

But my concern, my question is to everyone else is also -- there are always going to be people in this new landscape, and I think we saw this after Danny Pearl. There is a set of people who is going to not only see us as dollar signs, but see us as ideological targets, and how do we make the distinction when we're dealing with those people? I mean, how do we set systems in place where you know there is going to be a risk?

GANNON: I think to a certain extent -- I mean, it's not our business whether they see us as ideological targets or they ---

BAZZI: But it is our business --

GANNON: I mean, obviously it's to do --

AMANPOUR: But explain --

BAZZI: -- if they're going to behead us.

AMANPOUR: Kathy, explain, because you were allowed into Afghanistan by the Taliban.

GANNON: Yeah, the last three weeks of the bombing. And that was -- you know, I mean, and ideologically they certainly didn't relate to me, nor did they relate to me because I was a woman. So, you know, with two counts there I was -- but I had built the contacts over time.

I had been to the front line when they were trying to get into Kabul. I'd been to the front line while they were in Kabul. I didn't get involved in that we were ideologically different. I didn't -- I really tried to do the story just as a journalist and to cover both sides and to try and as best -- I mean, I wrote stories about training camps, I wrote stories about Mullah Omar, I wrote stories about women.

So I think that there is a way to do it because -- I mean, this is what I'm saying. I do believe that there is a way to do the job that is still fundamentally the same job, that you were saying, where we -- I was there to try and tell the story and to try to give both sides as best we can.

And, yes, of course -- you know, I mean, ideologically we're different, but I'm not so sure that we should get involved in those -- you know, I mean, for sure they see us as dollar signs, so you take precautions. You know, you limit your risk as best you can but you don't stop taking risks.

DICKEY: No, I don't think any of us has stopped taking risks.

GANNON: Yeah, exactly, so you try to limit them. You know, it's sort of like risk management as opposed to --

AMANPOUR: Now, we'll come back to this, but what about -- okay, there is the risk on the ground, obviously, that we've talked about. And then there's the risk back at headquarters, and that is the dearth of foreign correspondents and the cutbacks and the really paring down of any kind of international news-gathering operation. You seem to be a victim of that.

BARKER: I'm the poster child for it. (Chuckles.)

AMANPOUR: Explain.

BARKER: Well, at the end of March I basically got a phone call and was told that the Tribune was cutting back most of its foreign staff. Two correspondents survived and they were folded into the LA Times foreign correspondents staff.

It happened very quietly. Nobody really talked that much about it. And I think the Tribune Company tried to sell this as, we're consolidating, we're improving, but in reality a lot of people lost their jobs. We were called back to Chicago, but when once you get the bug of being overseas, the whole idea of going back and covering metro and writing about school board meetings, while very important, is nothing you really want to do.

So I decided to actually quit my job and to see what I could make of free-lancing. I did not yet know at that point that I got this fellowship, and I was offered various opportunities including one from a major newspaper, that I shall not name because this is on the record and I want to preserve my career as a journalist -- (laughter) -- that was for $30,000 a year -- $30,000 a year to cover Afghanistan, to cover a war zone. I was going to be super-stringer.

Out of that money ---

DICKEY: It's cheap there. It's cheap living there.


BARKER: Yeah. Out of that money I was supposed to pay for my rent, I was supposed to pay for my fixer, and I was supposed to pay for my health insurance, and I was supposed to be glad to have a job. These are the jobs that are open to foreign correspondents now. So I have to thank the Council on Foreign Relations actually -- (laughter) -- for giving me this opportunity to allow me to --

GANNON: But, see, there are a lot of people who will take that. It just --

BARKER: Well, they found a guy who was about 15 years, 10 years younger than I was and he was willing to take it, you know --

GANNON: Absolutely.

BARKER: -- because it's an opportunity.

GANNON: But then what kind of coverage are they going to get?

BARKER: Well, and what sort of safety net does he --

DICKEY: Well, I think there's a couple of forces coming together here. It's not just that everybody is facing economic cutbacks and the industry is rethinking. I think there's real news fatigue going on, and this goes in cycles.

I mean, after '89, '90, '91, by the time we got to '93, '94, after the fall of the wall, after the Iraq War, after all those things that happened, nobody wanted to know anything about foreign news. We didn't have a big crisis, but everybody was cutting back. Everybody was cutting back budgets. Nobody cared.

AMANPOUR: See, I would posit a different take on that. I think the bosses didn't want to know about foreign news because it was expensive. And there was a new president in the United States, Bill Clinton at the time, who didn't know anything about the foreign environment. I mean, that's not an insult; it's just he came in having no experience. And everybody thought, oh, he's going to shift way over to domestic and all the rest of it.

I think one of the most hopeful things that I've seen recently regarding this news fatigue cliche is what the AP and others have done in terms of research and studies where they found that, yes, many Americans, many people say they have news fatigue, but when you ask them what that means and you go into that, it basically means that they're tired of the superficial factoids and headlines that they get bombarded with. They're tired of the constant breaking news, but what they really want is --

DICKEY: Is your show -- your new show.

(Laughter, cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: No, but to me this is the hopeful sort of rope that you can hang onto for our business because we are slowly being killed off. And really, in fact, people actually want it. They want more information and understanding. They want more depth, context, perspective, intelligence and all the rest of it.

And so I think that's a real sort of really hopeful thing that we can grab onto and use, but the question is, you know, will we? It's building kind of slowly. At CNN you have the Fareed Zakaria program, which was the first foreign policy program to go on CNN domestic in years and years and years, and it holds its own and people are interested because -- I mean, I really believe if we build it, they'll come, and I'm wondering whether you think that and whether you try to persuade your bosses of it. I mean, I --

DICKEY: Actually my boss is Fareed.


GANNON: And he's convinced.


BARKER: I think the traditional sort of newspaper having a bunch of foreign correspondents out there for newspapers, that model is gone. And you can hardly blame the newspapers; they're bankrupt. Where do you cut?

I mean, it's a wonderful, fabulous luxury to have foreign correspondents for medium-sized, good, strong newspapers, but it no longer exists and we have to come up with -- it's great to keep whining about it -- we have to come up with a way to actually solve it and a way to sort of come up with different ways to have foreign coverage and different voices so you just don't have the wires and the major news organizations.

Whether that means people are blogging, whether that means you've got different nonprofits sending out foreign correspondents, whether that means that I'm no longer the South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune and instead I brand myself as I'm Kim Barker, foreign expert, and I've got a webpage, and I go out there and I --

GANNON: Like GlobalPost.

BARKER: Yeah, and -- but, yeah, like I would not get out of bed for what they pay although I very much respect what GlobalPost is doing. It's just not enough money to make it worth it.

AMANPOUR: Mohamad, what do you -- you obviously have to think about these things when you're teaching and when you are trying to figure out the future of war coverage and international news coverage. Where do you think the solution lies? Is it in the bloggers or the, you know, underpaid?

BAZZI: So I get the hardest question. (Laughter.) That's just because I teach.

I think ultimately it will probably be a combination of all of these things -- the GlobalPost model -- and we'll hear from Charlie Sennot tomorrow. I don't know if he's here today. He can defend himself. That model -- oh, there he is. There's Charlie.

DICKEY: Oh, there he is.

BAZZI: That model will probably be something that we're moving towards and, you know, there has to be -- but there has to be ways for that to pay more, and there has to be ways, maybe by partnering --

One of the things I think Charlie does in Afghanistan is he partners with the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and gets people who already have positions and who -- probably see more people like myself, people in academia and who are writing and using time, travel and trying to string together grants and things like that to do this kind of work.

It probably won't happen on the same scale that it happened for the past 20 years, so we might see a smaller scale. We'll probably see a greater role for places like CFR and places like Carnegie and places that are funding smaller efforts but independent efforts because that begins to raise all sorts of other issues.

AMANPOUR: And then I want to ask another question about content. Again, one of the lines that -- one of the memories about Walter Cronkite at the service today, one of his friends said, you know, he was always, you know, thinking and looking and trying to figure out what the latest landscape is. And he was not so much, quote, "concerned with the revolutions in the delivery systems, but about who's minding the content."

And, you know, my question is, do we sort of -- not price ourselves but work ourselves out of public trust and into the sort of news fatigue zone when we only report the bad news? And I know that sounds sort of Pollyannaish but let me just give you an example.

The latest debate over the war in Afghanistan with all these polls -- including a recent CNN poll that says that growing numbers of Americans, now a majority of Americans, appear to want the troops out of Afghanistan. And then the next question -- do you believe the U.S. is winning the war in Afghanistan -- and the answer was no by a majority. But then the next question -- do you believe the United States can win the war in Afghanistan and the answer was yes by a significant majority. But nobody ever gets to that question. It's only the headline of the bad news that's only ever written at the top.

DICKEY: That's what George Bush used to say all the time.


AMANPOUR: Well, in some ways, perhaps in that regard, he may have had a point.


But, very seriously, you know, this is a huge national debate which is not happening right now: What is at stake in Afghanistan? Has anything good happened? Should one continue to build on it or should one cut and run?

And the indicators show that in every way -- in a lot of important ways, things are better in Afghanistan than they were in 2001, and one can build on it, including the fact that in the country you cover, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, extremism has been going down over the last year. The latest polls show that.

These are interesting, and I think very interesting, pieces of the pie that don't get reported.

BARKER: Who are they polling?


BARKER: Who are they polling?


GANNON: But, you know, I mean, I think that we need to give more complexity to the story. It's not that things are much better now than they were in 2001. There are so many things that have happened, and the problems are so diverse and the sources of the problems are often those that are allied with the U.S. or a part of the attempted solution. And so, sometimes we don't give the complexities of the story.

DICKEY: I don't think people are desperate for the complexities in Afghanistan.

GANNON: Oh, but I do.

DICKEY: I really don't.

(Cross talk.)

BARKER: I do think if you have a chance -- no, I disagree. I do think that if --

DICKEY: I don't. I really think we're completely at odds on this. My basic feeling the whole time I've been a foreign correspondent -- and not because I want it to be this way -- is that what the American people want from the rest of the world is to forget about it. They don't -- I mean, that's a hell of a thing to say here at the Council on Foreign Relations --

GANNON: No, no, I don't -- yeah.


DICKEY: -- but in fact, it has a really important impact on the way we do business, and especially as things evolve, because 30 years ago there was a presumption that people had a duty to read about foreign policy and we in the news business had a duty to cover things.

I mean, the Washington Post -- when I was at the Washington Post -- always allotted a certain amount of space on the front page to foreign news. It didn't matter how boring it was. They were going to put it out there because that was our duty, to put foreign news out there. That was a social responsibility.

Newsweek -- the whole time I've been at Newsweek, which is 25, 26 years, whenever they would to do polls, what's the least read part of Newsweek? Foreign news coverage. And it's not because we don't do a great job. We do a great job.

AMANPOUR: We all do a great job. (Chuckles.)

DICKEY: But it is -- it's not something that people basically wake up and say, gee, what am I going to read about Angola today?

AMANPOUR: See, I really disagree with you, and I think --

DICKEY: Well, I don't have a new show starting.


AMANPOUR: Yeah. I disagree with you because, look, it's almost like a straw man argument because if you ask somebody, do they care more about the latest health-care proposal that's going to affect them and their family or --

DICKEY: Well, they can't --

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: -- or the war in Angola, they're going to say of course the latest cure for cancer or whatever. That's not the issue. The issue is can we make vital stories about the world which affects people compelling? And there are umpteen places all over the journalistic spectrum that prove that you can, whether it's "60 Minutes," which does its share of foreign news and gets huge ratings, whether it's the newspapers, whether it's, you know, the occasional times we put it on CNN, including the documentaries, they do get high ratings.

And the issue is whether we're going to do it in a compelling way. And I think actually that is a big issue for journalists, and that's why I'm interested in talking about the content because, can we make it compelling, because it is vital and we know that.

BARKER: Well, I think --

AMANPOUR: Go ahead, Kim.

BARKER: I mean, I think good stories are always going to get readers, are always going to get viewers. People want to read stories about people. They don't necessarily want to read an eight-inch story about a budget in some foreign country.

But if you can present a story in a way that makes somebody feel like that person could be next door to me, that's something that I feel compelled to do something about; that's an injustice I feel compelled to write.

It doesn't really matter whether it's next door or if it's halfway around the world, especially when you've got conflicts such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan where we're actually paying a lot of U.S. taxpayer money. It could make those very compelling to people.

AMANPOUR: And Afghanistan is not a foreign news story.

BARKER: It's not. It's a very local story at this point. I mean, when you --

DICKEY: Well, but that's about the Americans who are in Afghanistan.

BARKER: Well, it's also about --

AMANPOUR: Yeah, but I mean --

(Cross talk.)

BARKER: -- about the Afghans and the sort of country that we're building there and the sort of money we're putting into, you know, a country where Karzai feels like it's okay to sign a law right before the elections saying that it's fine if a Shi'ite man starves his wife if she doesn't have sex with him enough.

I mean, these are interesting sort of debates, and if you frame them in those sorts of ways, people are going to read those stories.

DICKEY: Turning this on its head a little bit, I think it's interesting also -- a new phenomenon that we haven't talked about at all is the way certain foreign stories get sexy because they become kind of a cult media thing.

The Darfur story is a very interesting story, but it's not as interesting as it became when it hit the campuses and all of a sudden became the cause de jour.

BARKER: But then how did it become the cause de jour?

AMANPOUR: In the United States of America, the only thing protesting Darfur were grassroots movements. That's pretty amazing.

DICKEY: Well, grassroots movements --

AMANPOUR: On campus --

DICKEY: -- with George Clooney and Angelina Jolie --

AMANPOUR: Oh, not all of them.


BARKER: I mean, the way that they become the cause de jour is because of the coverage in the --

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: By the way, Nick Clooney spoke beautifully today at Walter Cronkite's memorial -- really, really beautifully.

And on that note, I'd like to invite members who are sitting here to join this conversation with their questions. And you must wait for the microphone, please, and speak directly into it when it gets to you. And stand and state your name and affiliation, and of course limit yourself to one question and not a speech. Thank you.

Where are the microphones? Okay. Right at the back of the room, is there a microphone? If you wouldn't mind standing.

QUESTIONER: Sure. Good evening and thank you. I'm Jonathan Burman. I'm with Dalberg, a consulting firm.

When we move into a new location, usually what we do is find the best locals we can find and hire them. We typically don't have people from here parachuting in or even going long term, putting on their safari coats and doing their jobs.

I just -- I'd voice some surprise that I don't see more of that on our nation's media. I wonder if you have reflections on why that would be and whether there are places that do that well.

GANNON: Well, I mean, I think every media has local people as well, you know? I mean, I don't think anybody doesn't have, you know, local staff and local reporters and stringers and -- you know. So, I mean, there's certainly a network, certainly for us anyway; I mean a very strong network of local people as well that are involved in collecting the news.

AMANPOUR: Can I just add to that question, because you were discussing this a little bit before. You were saying that part of our responsibility now, in order to not just get the story but to stay safe, is to build up the bank of local associates and contacts, et cetera.

Is that the way it's going to go, just as we see now in bylines on the major newspapers? It's the permanent writer and then local contributors.

(Cross talk.)

GANNON: I mean, I think they've always been involved. I think there has been more attention of late paid to -- you know, they're seeing people that are on the byline today. They were contributing, you know, three, four years ago, and now --

AMANPOUR: But unnamed.

GANNON: -- and unnamed, and there was a policy not to name them. Now they're being named as a matter of policy, which I think this very good because it also gives them the recognition.

DICKEY: But it also has to be said that they are particularly vulnerable in a way that we are not. I mean, we may be targets; we may be worth $100,000 or more, but --


MS. : Or more.

DICKEY: But it's -- for instance, no foreign -- briefly, one foreign national foreign correspondent was jailed in Iran. But our correspondent, who is Iranian and Canadian, is still in the slam three months now without any charges, and their attitude is we don't have to talk to the Canadians, we don't have to talk to you. He's our guy. We have got him.

And, you know, our guy in -- Sami Yousafzai in Pakistan and Afghanistan, you know, he has several bullet holes in him now. I'm amazed he's still alive.

MS. : I'm amazed too.

BARKER: There's also the issue of -- it's a fair question, but a lot of times you're working with people who are involved -- who are on the ground and there is a conflict, and they've got a dog in the fight. If you're a Panjshiri in Afghanistan, you're going to want Abdullah to win. If you're a Pashtun, you might be more predisposed towards Ghani or you might just hate Abdullah altogether.

So when you're a foreigner and you're in that sort of situation, you don't really have a dog in the fight and you can always leave. And you can also balance out these different sort of issues. I mean, in Lebanon -- Mohamad would probably know this better than I do -- there was the instance of the Reuters photographer who put smoke in the background of a particular picture to make it look at little bit more inflammatory and a little bit worse.

And he had a dog in the fight. And since we don't, we can sort of moderate that a little bit. At least that's what we're supposed to be doing.

GANNON: Yeah, and I think we work together. I don't think all of them, though -- I mean, you know, and I think that's very true but I think that -- and, again, it's like getting the best people for the job and really, really investigating that.

And I think you -- I think that's why you have a mix of both. You don't have a bureau that just has local people because, first, they don't -- the foreigner gives protection to them by the mere fact that the foreigner is there. So you don't just have a bureau that just has local people. You have to take care of your local staff, recognizing that.

But there are a lot of them that even though they are party to -- you know, their country is at war, it's just like when America was hit on September 11th. Well, that didn't make all the American journalists suddenly trying to, you know, rework it.

BARKER: It kind of did make us all jingoistic. Let's be honest. (Chuckles.)

GANNON: Well, no, I think you still had -- no, I think you still had some -- it became a difficult -- where our profession and our professionalism was really called into question, we really had to say --

BARKER: Yes, and it should have been.

GANNON: -- we have to cover both sides of the story. But we went into Afghanistan to the Taliban side when nobody else was because they had to be told.

BAZZI: It's a little simplistic and we should be careful not to say that every local journalist --

GANNON: Exactly.

BARKER: Oh, that's not what I'm saying at all.

BAZZI: -- is going to be sort of choosing sides.

BARKER: I'm saying it can happen.

BAZZI: And let me just quickly take this question from another side and to take us in another direction on this, which is that we're seeing a lot of very good journalism being produced, English-language reporting, and to American and Western standards, being produced in other parts of the world these days. New media --

AMANPOUR: Where? India?

BAZZI: India.

AMANPOUR: Pakistan?

BAZZI: Pakistan.

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: Al Jazeera English?

BAZZI: Al Jazeera English.

GANNON: Al Jazeera English.

AMANPOUR: Do you read that?

BARKER: Yeah, it's great.


BAZZI: Yes, definitely. There is a new paper in Abu Dhabi funded by the government which, you know --

AMANPOUR: The National?

BAZZI: The National. Its coverage of Abu Dhabi is problematic but its coverage of the rest of the world actually --

(Laughter, cross talk.)

BARKER: -- Al Jazeera.

BAZZI: Well, but it actually has more foreign correspondents now than most Western news organizations. It has something like 20 --

(Cross talk.)

DICKEY: It's got a lot more money than most Western news organizations.

BAZZI: Yeah.


GANNON: Well, that's Al Jazeera. I mean, you know --

AMANPOUR: Can we get another question? Right here, sir. Can you wait for the microphone, please?

QUESTIONER: Seymour Topping, Columbia University. I'd like you to picture yourselves as senior editors and as an editor, and the young correspondents come up to see you. And they're going out for the first time. What do you tell them when they're going into a dangerous area how to stay alive, how to get the story and what other words while at risk?

AMANPOUR: Okay, Chris.

DICKEY: Well, I'd tell them not to go with Luke De La Hey (ph) into Iraq.

AMANPOUR: Our friend, the photographer, yeah.

DICKEY: The first thing I'd tell them is that they have to think about how important the story really is, whether they really want to take the risks that are involved for that story. Is it important to Americans? Is it important to their publication? Is it important to the audience that they want to appeal to? I mean, these are lines that I would draw.

I confess, I did not want to die in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. I was not interested in covering those wars. You went to those places, but I was not going to do those wars.

The Central American wars, absolutely. The Middle Eastern wars, absolutely. A lot of the African wars don't get covered because nobody wants to go die in Eastern Congo when nobody cares. And it's very hard to make anybody care. So that's the first thing -- how important is the story?

And then the second is to be careful, to get to know people, to not figure that you can just bluff your way through situations where people have guns and they would just as soon kill you as look at you.

GANNON: I think I just have to say I disagree. The last thing I would ever say to a young journalist going out is, think first about what the audience that you're writing for. I mean, I think, first, I would say, depending on where they're going, talk to them about the story that they're going into, about the place that they're going into, about the security concerns that they will find in that place. Talk to them about what their expectations are. What do they know about that place? What homework have they done? I mean, very detailed questions on, you know, the place in which they're going, that they've chosen to go.

But the last thing, I think, I would say anyway to somebody going in is, gee, think first about, is anybody going to want to read that story?

DICKEY: That's the AP for you.


GANNON: There you go! You can read anything you want.

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: In terms of -- this is also another increasingly debilitating cost center for the networks now. Because of the realities of all our colleagues who have been killed and wounded in action, our networks now, and probably major newspapers, spend huge amounts of money on war insurance, on war protection, on pre-field training, on a detail of guards.

It's huge. It's taking up I would say at least half the budget that, you know, half again of what it costs to just cover the story. And it in itself is becoming debilitating, because then you're out there surrounded by a cordon of guards. They're your guards, you've paid for them, and they're telling you whether you can leave or go out or cover this or that story.

And that, for a young journalist who's never been in the field before, who's never covered foreign news, who doesn't have their own war experience and hasn't built up their own instincts for the field, it's a killer.

MS. : And that's also for TV. It's difficult, too, because TV, you know, with a reporter with just a notebook in hand --

AMANPOUR: And I had to force my way out of that cordon of protection in order to do my documentary which I did in the last few weeks. And that's only because I had my own experience, and I can get away with it. But nobody else can. Not in my network. And obviously, our company wants to protect our people. We've had, you know, people killed. We've had people injured. And this is having a very, very, very difficult effect.

Let me just go to another question and then we'll go. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Yeah. My name is Richard Chesnoffen (ph). I've been a foreign correspondent for 40 years, God help me. (Laughter.) Some of you raised the question of the dangers of being embedded with U.S. troops. But you were raising questions of physical danger of being embedded. I want to ask you about the other danger of being embedded. What do you think are the dangers of being embedded?

I was embedded with the Israeli troops during the Six-Day War, and I was one of the few guys who got to the front. I was embedded with the U.S. troops in the first Gulf War. And I was one of the few guys who was out to the front. But the question remains, there's a lot of criticism that says once you're embedded, you're more than embedded, you're in bed. And that's the question I'm putting to you.

BARKER: I mean, I've embedded a number of times. And I think I ended up on the U.S. military's do not embed list at some point. (Laughter.) I was told that I was referred to as the most dangerous reporter in Afghanistan, and a sign was actually hung up at a base about me.

And I say this tongue in cheek, but it's actually true. I do believe that you can embed, and you can do critical stories, and you can do fair stories, and then you can come out, and you can do critical, fair stories on the other side. I noticed this was a big fear in the beginning of the Iraq war. And I wasn't involved in that particular conflict. I was in Afghanistan at that time. Boy, was that a fun place.

But with Iraq, you would not have been able to get the same sort of images of what was happening if you didn't have people on the inside and also on the outside. We had both people who were embedded and we had people who were moving around outside.

And you can make the argument that you shouldn't embed at all. But when I've embedded, I've had the military telling me, this war is completely messed up. You get really honest reactions from the soldiers that you're never going to get from the people in charge. And that is the sort of, you know, the sort of honesty that you get from soldiers, not the pre-scripted things that they're told to say. But when they're actually being honest with you, there's no other way you can get that stuff.

GANNON: And that's the story -- the soldier's story. But then to do a story on the generals, I mean, then that's different. Are you able to get a complete story and a realistic story from that perspective.

MR. : No, and I don't think you should kid yourself about that.

GANNON: Exactly.

MR. : You know, when you've got these guys that look like the, you know, troopers from Star Wars standing next to you, it's very hard to interview the locals -- (Laughter.)

AMANPOUR: Yeah, but the point is --

BARKER: (Inaudible) -- translator who can't really, who doesn't tend to translate --

AMANPOUR: But the point is, because this is now really, again, vital, we pretty much now the military has got the bug. It's all about embedding. If you don't embed, you don't cover the military pretty much in these places. So you've got to figure out how to do it and how to keep doing your job. And the only way to do it is to embed, if you have to, but then you or somebody else has to be on the other side. They cannot be the only source of your information. They cannot be the only amount of information that you put out, whether it's with the American Army, the Israelis or whoever it may be.

MR. : Well, I think also embedding got a particularly bad name in 2003 when we were still all very jingoistic. And an awful lot of people were embedded. It was the only way you could move around in 2003. And I forget what percentage, but over 50 percent of the footage that came out of those embeds was of the correspondent with a microphone standing against a neutral background. It was not shots of the war, it was shots of the correspondent basically doing a hi mom on the air.

AMANPOUR: Maybe that was in the early days, but there have been amazing stories about the U.S. military --

BARKER: And it humanizes them. I mean, that's what --

MR. : I think it's evolved.

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: So there have been some valuable --

(Cross talk.)

BARKER: But it also takes the soldier and it makes him a human being or her a human being. And I think that's very important to show the real costs that people are paying over there.

AMANPOUR: I agree. Yeah, Bill -- microphone. Behind you, Bill.

QUESTIONER: Bill Drozdiak, formerly a correspondent with The Washington Post and now with the American Council on Germany. Just a question to follow on the previous discussion. Why do you think the press got to the story so wrong on the Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Did the coverage fall prey to jingoistic but patriotism? Or were there other reasons?

MR. : Well, some of us didn't get it wrong, Bill. I mean --

GANNON: I didn't cover it at all. But to me --

(Cross talk.)

AMANPOUR: It's a little off topic, but I think, in general, there was a lot of -- there was a general abdication of a journalist's role which is to rigorously question the premise of anything, whatever it might be. And people didn't do that. You know, your American press is very vigorous when it gets to a press conference. It asks the president. It asks the other officials. It really goes after all the angles, but in this case it didn't. And those who did often labored to decide.

The McClatchy newspapers were very, very vigorous in how they pursued this. There was that very key story that was front page in The New York Times about the so-called aluminum tube that was held up as evidence of the centrifuges. In fact, we broke it on CNN that in fact the IAEA said that it was merely for conventional power, it did nonetheless violate a rule, but it wasn't about WMD.

So I think also -- also -- many, many people believed that there were in fact some kind of WMD in Iraq, maybe not nuclear weapons since that has pretty much been debunked, but many people believed that what we had been told after the end of Desert Fox in '98 that there was all this precursor, there was, you know, all the elements for biological or chemical weapons, believed it was there.

But I think whether or not it was an immediate threat, that was never --

(Cross talk.)

DICKEY: But the problem -- you know, I covered this. God, did I cover this. I mean, in Newsweek, I have to say, and this is not just a joke, Newsweek did a great job doing this. The week that Colin Powell testified in front of the United Nations, we broke out, I think, five or six boxes poking holes in his testimony and talking about the implausible aspects of it.

A lot of people thought, including me, that Saddam probably had some kind of weapons of mass destruction. We all knew that he wanted them and wanted them badly, but ultimately that was not the biggest problem. The biggest problem was that we were going into this war and nobody would address the issue of occupying Iraq. Nobody would talk about that. We couldn't get anybody to address it.

We were writing. In Newsweek, we were writing stories. We wrote a story -- in February of 2003 -- saying these are the perils of victory. We're going to go in, and we're going to be stuck in this miserable country, and we're going to spend a lot of money and a lot of lives here.

These are the kinds of things that people were talking about. But again, people didn't want to hear it. The idea was we were going to war, this is going to be a big party, it's going to be a cakewalk, and then we're going to be welcomed with rice and flowers. And there was a whole construct that was wrong here, it's not just the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

AMANPOUR: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: My name is Rowan Paul (ph). I'm a lawyer. It follows on from this question. Aren't you a little concerned that you may be too negative on the United States government's position? And just by way of footnote about Iraq. Charles Duelfer and David Kaye both said Saddam could quickly reconstitute his chemical and biological weapons, and you never covered that as far as I know. But anyway, aren't you a little concerned that you, by devoting so much to the negative, that you're going to sway American public opinion --

MR. : Well, I don't know. I mean, considering that that is what was the driving impulse with the public to get involved in a war that costs us still about $2.5 billion a week and has killed 4,000-plus Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I think, you know, I think we can be a little unkind at the government.

GANNON: But our job is to be critical. Our job is to question. Our job is to -- I mean, that's part of what the job is. I mean, it's not about -- you know, good story, bad story. I mean, that's what you're supposed to do fundamentally.

MR. : You know, and I have to say, yeah, I think it is. There was an old newspaper motto here in New York back in the 19th century that didn't say you should do all the news that's fit to print, it said, tell the truth and raise hell. And I think that that is a pretty good, slightly nihilistic attitude for most journalists to have. Because if you're always thinking about your responsibility to the government and to be nice to the government, you wind up just working for the government.

GANNON: And we have no responsibility to the government.

AMANPOUR: So this is very important, but it's slightly off our point -- (laughter) -- which is the changing environment for foreign correspondents. So let's have a question to that, please.

The lady in the back. Sorry, sir, I'll come back to you. This lady.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Lindsay (sp) Howard, Pengaea Group. It's harder to protect journalists now. Very few have a legacy as you, Ms. Amanpour, or Chris Dickey, who is a literary figure and whose father was poet laureate of the United States and has a wicked pen as well.

DICKEY: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Is there more that international institutions and the business community can do to deal with this changing power relationship that the Taliban and al Qaeda and extremist groups have calculated very well? They use the media to their own purposes, for their own spectacles, but there's very little fear left of the repercussions. The power relationship has changed. Can you address that and how more of us might do more?

GANNON: I just want to say everybody uses or will try to use the media. I don't think there's anybody, whether it's government, non-government, Taliban, al Qaeda, Hamid Karzai, I mean, everybody will try to. I mean, our job really is to -- I mean, really, as journalists, our jobs are to document history and to try to give the information as best we can.

I mean, I don't think that it's up to us to say, gee, how can we make the Taliban afraid to attack journalists. You know, I mean, I think as journalists, anyway, in my opinion, is that our job is to try to get out there and get the information as best you can. You take the security precautions you can, but I don't think getting into some collaboration with business and communities that says somehow making it financially or somehow unbearable, if I understood the question --

AMANPOUR: I, on the other hand, would ask everybody, all the business people and the people who advertise in the United States to stand for something and stand for a really important profession, which is journalism, and start funding us and advertising and allowing us to do our jobs. So really -- (applause) --

(Cross talk.)

It's an absolutely obscenity. People want the news, people want the information, and they cut us off at the you-know-whats and prevent us from going out to do it. And I think it's time as a society that this society get its act together and start funding those people who are prepared to be the eyes and the ears of the rest of the nation or the rest of the whoever their readers or viewers are.

And you know, people want to stand for something. And maybe we should do a better job of encouraging that. People want to be associated with something that's good. And the profession of journalism is good. I mean, how many -- (laughs) -- how many people want to be seen with news celebrities and all the rest of it? You know, they feel that it is something important in their lives to get this information. So I say people should put their money where their mouth is and start advertising and funding us.

GANNON: Getting the newspapers back.

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) -- and we'll take another question.

QUESTIONER: I'm Rod Totes (ph), a foreign correspondent who goes back to the Korean War and one of the few here, I suspect, who, like Richard Hartlett, worked side by side with Ed Murrow. This is a story about the scariness of war coverage in the old days.

Ed Murrow came to the Pusan beachhead in Taegu in the middle of August, 1950 and was embedded in the 8th Army, embedded, that is to say, on a sleeping bag in a schoolhouse where about one dozen of us were spending the night.

In the middle of the night, although dead tired, we were all awakened by machine gun fire, and we all hit the floor, except for Ed Murrow, who went right on scraping his teeth. It sounded exactly like machine gun fire going off. I think that story has never been told about Ed Murrow before. (Laughter, applause.)

AMANPOUR: Well, you know what? We are very close to the end of our time. I would very much like to end on that very fun, up note and remembering the icon of our profession. And I think that's a good thing to say good-bye with. Thank you very much indeed.


Before you go, I forgot to say, I'm not sure whether you were coming back to say, you know, to introduce the next part of the program or whether I should.

Okay, thank you, Richard.

You're all welcome to a cocktail which starts now and goes on until 8:30. Thanks very much for coming and don't forget the sessions tomorrow. (Applause.)








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