Former Wall Street Journal spokesman speaks to CU students
On Monday afternoon, students received a first-hand account of the dangers of their future professions and the ethical decisions they may have to make one day.
Paul Voakes, Dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, introduced the former head spokesman for the Wall Street Journal, Steven Goldstein, to a captive audience.
Goldstein worked for The Journal during the abduction and subsequent murder of its Southeast Asian bureau chief Daniel Pearl. He spoke to the class about his role in influencing media coverage of the event, and the decisions he made to “save a human life.”
Pearl was abducted on Jan 23, 2002, in Pakistan. On Feb 21, 2002, a tape was released to the FBI showing the beheading of Pearl that took place on Feb. 1, 2002. He was survived by his pregnant wife Mariane, also a journalist, and his son, Adam, now five years old.
Goldstein had to make decisions regarding the treatment of this story to spare grief on the part of the Pearl family and to protect the life of Pearl himself.
During the speech, Goldstein raised the question: “How do you deal with . . . asking people for favors?” He admitted that he “made a deal (with reporters); no staking out (Pearl’s) house, no nothing.”
In return, Goldstein said, he was available to these reporters at all hours for any information they might need. Goldstein also said he gave journalists covering the Pearl story almost every fact off the record as long as they consulted with him on what would be on the record.
Goldstein said he does not feel guilt over this decision. He said he was working to downplay coverage of Pearl’s story to protect his life.
The Journal used appeals by Pakistani media, and from celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and Shaquille O’Neal, popular in that country, to get Pearl back, Goldstein said.
It was also widely publicized that Pearl’s wife was pregnant, Goldstein said, to appeal to Islamic tradition that “after five months a child in a mother’s womb is an angel.” He said he hoped this strategy would convey killing Pearl as a violation Islamic law.
Goldstein said the Journal said facts such as Pearl’s religion were better left un-reported.
“We begged the reporters not to report that the parents were Israelis, and they never did,” Goldstein said, later adding that the terrorists “wanted to kidnap a Jewish American reporter,” and Pearl’s abductors suspected he was a member of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
“You have to control what you give (reporters), or they control it,” Goldstein said when asked by a student how to find the balance between too much and too little media coverage. “I understood the reporters were just trying to do their job, but I don’t think you should report at all cost. I think journalism is a great profession, journalism done right,”
For Goldstein, this story was very personal. He said it was his job to tell Pearl’s parents how he died.
“There’s no book that tells you how to do it,” he said.
Students appreciated Goldstein’s appearance.
“It was amazing to actually meet somebody like this,” said Irakli Gioshvili, a senior pre-journalism major.
Caroline Seib, a sophomore pre-journalism major, said she was just as glad to hear such a distinguished speaker.
“I really respected his honesty, he didn’t have to give us a lot of the information that he gave us.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Sam Dieter at email@example.com
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