By Sonali Kohli for the Daily Bruin
Saying “no” wasn’t an option for David Remnick.
To Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine, Daniel Pearl is a hero in the world of journalism and free speech.
So when Pearl’s father, UCLA computer scientist Judea Pearl, asked Remnick to speak at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA, Remnick accepted without hesitation.
For 10 years now, journalists like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper have commemorated Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped, killed and beheaded by terrorists while reporting in Pakistan in 2002, by speaking on the nexus of international relations and journalism.
This year’s lecture will take place today at 5 p.m. in Korn Convocation Hall at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. The Daniel Pearl Foundation, headed by Judea Pearl, partners with Hillel at UCLA and the Burkle Center for International Relations to put on the annual event.
Registration for the event is currently closed, but any remaining seats will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Remnick was this year’s choice for a keynote speaker for a few reasons, Judea Pearl said. He has covered topics from Russia to Obama’s presidency, and he is successful in a time when journalism nationwide is struggling – Remnick wrote for the Washington Post before starting at the New Yorker. In his tenure as editor, circulation has increased, while other newspapers and magazines around the country face newsroom cuts and bankruptcy.
While he didn’t know Pearl personally, they belong to the same generation of reporters, Remnick said.
“There’s a distinct feeling … (of) real kinship with him and solidarity,” Remnick said. “And even to this day, terrible grief.”
His lecture today will discuss the Middle East and honor Daniel Pearl’s dedication to journalism and freedom of expression, Remnick said.
“The way he insisted on himself and who he was to the very horrible end is something that will never leave my consciousness or that of millions and millions of other people,” Remnick said.
The lecture series is a way to continue Daniel Pearl’s legacy as someone who devoted his life to providing the world with knowledge, Judea Pearl said.
It’s a shift from Daniel Pearl’s undergraduate years at Stanford University, when Judea Pearl didn’t want his son to become a journalist.
“I told him that it’s a useless profession because you’re not creating any new knowledge, you’re just transferring knowledge from one place to another,” said Pearl, a UCLA computer science professor emeritus. “I tried to get him to be a scientist.”
But as Pearl read his son’s work for the Wall Street Journal, telling international stories and coloring them with his on-the-ground perspective, he began to appreciate journalism – his son presented a human face behind the news.
“Now I understand how important it is to transfer knowledge from a place where it is known and useless to a place where it is badly needed,” Pearl said.
The lecture series also exposes students and the public to experiences that complement the academic perspective of international affairs, said Alexandra Lieben, the deputy director for the Burkle Center.
Fifth-year history student Daniel Melling said he is sometimes surprised by how candid the speakers are in their lectures.
He was caught off guard by Anderson Cooper’s 2009 talk, when the CNN journalist spoke about his brother’s suicide, and his reporting on genocide in Rwanda as a recent college graduate, said Melling, who now interns for the Burkle Center and will be working at this year’s event.
“Something about that talk really struck me,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting this dark, personal side of the journalist to come out.”
Although reservations for today’s lecture are full, Lieben encouraged students to come to the standby line if they want to attend the event. She’s never turned anyone away, she said.
Journalists are always willing to share their stories for this lecture because of the ideal Daniel Pearl represents, Judea Pearl said.
“They feel it’s almost their duty to give this lecture,” Judea Pearl said. “(Daniel) symbolizes the nobleness of the profession.”