Remembering a Journalist
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, spoke at UCLA on Wednesday about Daniel Pearl, who was held captive and killed by terrorists in Karachi in 2002. (Photo by Margaretta Soehendro)

Remembering a Journalist

New York Times columnist David Brooks delivered the Sixth Annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture Tuesday to a capacity audience gathered at Korn Convocation Hall to remember the prominent Wall Street Journal reporter.

In order to actually understand what was happening in the world, you had to go to the places like where Danny went.


This article was first published by The Daily Bruin on Feb. 27, 2008.  The event was organized by the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA.

By Frank Shyong for The Daily Bruin

New York Times columnist David Brooks delivered the sixth annual Daniel Pearl memorial lecture Tuesday to a capacity audience gathered at Korn Convocation Hall to remember the prominent Wall Street Journal reporter.

Pearl was captured and beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. His father, Judea Pearl, who is also a computer science professor at UCLA, heads the Daniel Pearl Foundation and spoke about the lessons of his son’s death at the event.

“Shock and tragedy is history’s way of lifting us above the mundane,” Judea Pearl said.

Chancellor Gene Block then took the stage to introduce Brooks, who began by describing the impact of Daniel Pearl’s death.

“His passing was something that touched all of us profoundly,” said Brooks, who said he worked for the Wall Street Journal at the same time as Pearl but never met him.

Brooks went on to speak of the importance of Pearl’s work as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, sharing several anecdotes from his own career covering events in Russia. Brooks said that personal experience of world events that people like Pearl brought was essential to news coverage.

“In order to actually understand what was happening in the world, you had to go to the places like where Danny went,” Brooks said.

Brooks said his experiences overseas convinced him of the importance of the details, impressions and experiences provided by foreign correspondents in the field.

“To me, that’s the most valuable form of journalism: when you don’t just describe what somebody said, but you go out and describe what it actually feels like to live in a place,” he said.

Brooks added that history is dictated by these often-overlooked details of social and cultural behavior, which can best be observed through the kind of eyewitness journalism Pearl was involved in.

“It’s the patterns of behavior that are unconscious ... that actually shape history,” Brooks said.

After discussing the importance of Pearl’s work, Brooks then turned his attention to the war in Iraq.

He cited a World Values survey that found that 91 percent of Iraqis would be upset if a foreigner moved into their neighborhood and said that small social details about Iraqi culture could have informed the decision to go to war in Iraq.

“If we had looked at the World Values surveys, we might have had a better understanding of what we were doing,” Brook said.

Brooks said American politicians often overlook these important social and cultural details, to the detriment of foreign and domestic policy.

“If you use the word ‘love’ at a Senate congressional hearing, they look at you like you’re Oprah, but people learn from people they love,” Brooks said.

Sam Ross, a first-year undeclared student, said that he was impressed by Brooks’ ability to incorporate new themes into a discussion of international affairs but found the lecture slightly unfocused and likened it to a sociology lecture.

But Daniela Garcia, a fourth-year psychology student, said she enjoyed the sociological aspects of the lecture.

“He made it a point to emphasize unconscious processes and the way they shape things. ... It was the first speech I’d heard that deals with foreign affairs that tied that in,” Garcia said.

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Duration: 38:54

Duration: 38:54

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008