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Op-Ed Piece by Pulliam Professor David Hall in San Francisco Chronicle

February 6, 2002

February 6, 2002, Greencastle, Ind. - "John Walker Lindh is a triviality," begins an op-ed piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle by David Hall, Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University. Hall's contribution appears under the headline "An American Story?" on the commentary page of the Chronicle.

The American media tends to refer Lindh, the American accused of fighting with al Qaeda and Taliban forces, as "John Walker." Hall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor while at the Denver Post writes, "His Creator must look at John Walker either in wonderment or in sadness. But after a media rodeo, he is penned in a Virginia jail with a burr haircut. He's more famous than Bonnie and Clyde, and for fewer reasons." But it's Hall's view that "attention paid to him by newspapers and television, day after day, trivialize journalism and its duty to cover the nascent concern over terrorism."

Later, Hall writes, "Will better journalism last? The John Walker story presents a case study. Editors for many years have been fascinated not so much by aberrant occurrence as by aberrant personalities. Weird sells. Weird behavior sells better. Editors chant that phrase in their catechism. Is the Sept. 11 improvement in hard news coverage permanent? Does it modify the catechism? Should the catechism be modified? Answers depend on the respect editors and news directors give readers and viewers. Do ordinary men and women equate the sad circumstances of John Walker with the security of America? Do they identify with him or care? Do they think his pitiful plight emblematic of our fighting terrorism? Each question is silly on its face."

Printed at the conclusion of the commentary is "David Hall, former editor of the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, is the Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind."

You can read the thoughts of David Hall in their entirety, at the Chronicle's web site, by clicking here.

Learn more about Professor Hall, and see and hear video and audio clips of him, by clicking on this story. David Hall will discuss this issue Saturday night, February 9, at 7:30 p.m. (EST) on WIBC (1070 AM) in Indianapolis.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle