Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Searching for Ernie Pyle

I'm searching for a modern day Ernie Pyle.

Ernie Pyle was a small town Hoosier who became a world renowned, Pulitzer prize winning war correspondent during World War II.

Ernie Pyle was born in Dana, Indiana. The current population of Dana is around 662, give or take. From humble beginnings, he went on to attend Indiana University in Bloomington in the 1920's. A semester shy of graduation, Pyle accepted a job as a reporter for the LaPorte, Indiana newspaper. Rumor had it he was suffering from a failed romance and ready to move on with his life. As a student of the School of Journalism he wrote for the Indiana Daily Student.

Ernie Pyle wrote an aviation column, one of the first to do so. He developed quite a readership during the Great Depression. He later would win a Pulitzer Prize for his wartime reporting on World War II. Ernie Pyle was never one to be a reporter from behind a desk. He believed in going to the site of the story and, in the case of war coverage, developing a relationship with the soldiers on which he reported. His respect for the soldiers and their stories of bravery in the line of duty was felt by his readers.

He was eager to see the world and understand it.

He was as famous in his day as Edward R. Murrow.

Time Magazine made him a cover story. Word was that Ernie Pyle was not comfortable with celebrity status. The Time Magazine story portrayed him as a naive, country bumpkin and that insulted him. Even then the elitists of the east coast didn't understand the rest of the country.

He was honored with a Purple Heart for his service.

Ernie Pyle died from machine gun fire on the Czech border in April, 1945. The same year brought the deaths of FDR, Hitler and Mussolini. A year of transformation.

When Pyle died, just days after FDR, Harry Truman commented on the loss of another American hero.

Not bad for a country bumpkin from Dana, Indiana.

Today there is a memorial to Ernie Pyle in Dana, called the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site. It is a museum telling the story of his life. Indiana University, presenting Pyle with an honorary degree in his later life, named the building for the School of Journalism for him. There is the Ernie Pyle Lounge which holds many possessions from his life. A typewriter, his jacket worn on the battlefields, small mementos like cigarette lighters, his Purple Heart, his Pulitzer Prize certificate, etc.

A large photograph was on display of Pyle, his ever present cigarette in hand. He was a heavy smoker. This was not an uncommon habit back in the day. The University czars of political correctness demanded the photo be replaced with a photo that features the burning cigarette discreetly in the bottom corner. They were concerned about students perceiving the photo as an endorsement for smoking.

The czars are idiots.

As a student on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University, I walked past the Ernie Pyle School of Journalism building more times than I can recall. I wonder what Ernie Pyle, a journalist of such integrity and a tough guy image, would think of the silliness that has virtually put common sense off the table in today's world of higher education.

What would Ernie Pyle think of journalists of today? As a print journalist I can't help but think he would be appalled with the constant editorializing of today's reporters. It is so common place that we, the readers, have been numbed to the prevalence. Journalism and commentary have married together with no divorce in sight. It is a time when organizations like AP and Reuters refuse to use the word 'terrorist' and instead look for less offensive, in their minds, terms. Don't want to offend a killer. Especially if the killer is killing Americans.

He would not be one of those content to report from the Green Zone in Baghdad, that is a fact. He would be out and about the country reporting on the good as well as the bad. He would report on the majority of the provinces at peace and building new lives in freedom from the former dictator. He would report on the schools being built, the children going to school, the economy that is booming from all the small businesses starting up. He would report on the heroes in uniform and the record number of commendations being awarded to them.

The stories of the war we are not reading in our newspapers leaves me feeling cheated. I know that the bad news sells newspapers. If it bleeds, it leads. The modern day press feels entitled to pushing their agenda which includes the opinion that the war is unjust and the President of the U.S. must be humiliated. At any cost. They are busy now doing victory laps for the victory of the liberals and the takeover of both the House and the Senate. You may have noticed, however, that the very military veterans they besmirch are the ones recruited by the Dems to run this past cycle.

The world is a dangerous place now. Unserious people, short sighted people, isolationist people do more harm than good. The lessons of history tell us this.

The whole picture tells the story.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Karen. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to the new year, reading your thoughts. What an excellent piece of work. You should submit it to one of those big newpapers in your area. You'd be front page, at least if I were editor.

You have the silliness of the college campus pegged, Not in every school or field but enough to make you go hmmmm.

srp said...

I was thinking the same as ac.... this needs to go to a "Letter to the Editor" at least. Oh, but then they would be criticizing themselves....

Great post.