Monday, February 15, 2016

Rebel gone bad

     My intentions were not altogether honorable when I started writing my honors thesis in 1988. I wanted "with honors" on my diploma, the same way I wanted an A when doing outlines in elementary school.
     I also wanted a headline, which is more honorable from a journalist's perspective. It motivated me to find a newsworthy topic so my efforts wouldn't be wasted on a paper left to gather dust on University shelves.
     That's exactly what happened, but it was fun doing the field work.
     My title was catchy, too, "A Newspaper Held Hostage:  A Case Study of Terrorism in the Media."
     When I came across my thesis a few years ago in my basement, it all came back to me...How badly I wanted to interview the men who held journalists hostage to get their message out.
     The "ringleader" was Eddie. He's dead now but would've been great to interview because he was a real motormouth.
     Unfortunately, he was national news already, and I was too small-beans for his taste.
     My inside connection and I were hoping to get an interview with the quieter one, but it didn't happen because the lawyer said, "No way!"
     It was a smart move.
     Both of them served time for it, I think, but I didn't follow the story once I moved to Pennsylvania.
     The hostage-taking part of it interested me after watching what Walter Cronkite's nightly countdown did to Jimmy Carter. It was a nightly message delivered over dinner every night from terrorists saying, "Your President is weak."
     This time, the message was delivered in my home state, so I wanted to know what it was and how effective their method had been.
     The hostage-takers in North Carolina went directly to the messenger, holding reporters hostage.
     I wanted to know why had they done it that way and how it affected their message.
     Did it reach more people? Was "the problem" solved and if so, at what cost?
     Most of all, I wanted to ask them, as a journalist, "Was it worth it?"