One of the most remarkable things about Marie Colvin, the war correspondent who died last month in Syria while on assignment for the Sunday Times and who was laid to rest today, was that so many people had not heard of her. I admit to being one of them; I had to Google her name upon hearing the awful news that she had died in Homs as the city was being shelled by Bashar al-Assad’s army. That Colvin was not a celebrity on the scale of, say, Christiane Amanpour, was testament not to her reticence—by all accounts, she was no shrinking violet—but to her grace. In the macho, mostly male-dominated world of foreign correspondence, false bravado and self-absorption are very much the norm. The story is often as much about the reporters themselves and the hardships they must endure (see, for instance, the ouevre of Anderson Cooper) as it is the stories they are sent to cover. This is particularly true of British journalists, so many of whom have rightfully earned the moniker they use half-jokingly, “hack.” (Another explanation for Colvin’s relatively low profile: the internet paywall which the Times erected several years ago, but removed, on Colvin’s express wish, for what became her final dispatch.)
When Colvin died, the tributes poured in, and not just from her colleagues in the media. “This is a desperately sad reminder of the risks that journalists take to inform the world of what is happening and the dreadful events in Syria and our thoughts should be with her family and with her friends,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Westminster. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said, “Marie Colvin embodied the highest values of journalism throughout her long and distinguished career as a foreign correspondent ... She was utterly dedicated to her work, admired by all of us who encountered her, and respected and revered by her peers. Her tragic death is a terrible reminder of the risks that journalists take to report the truth.”
I hasten to add here that Colvin was an American citizen, a New Yorker born and bred, who was buried—after a harrowing, weeks-long repatration of her body from Syria—in her native Long Island community of Oyster Bay. Sure, Colvin spent the bulk of her career on a British newspaper. But is it too much to ask that the president of the United States join his British counterpart and speak a few words on the record about his fellow American, one of the bravest and most accomplished foreign correspondents of her generation?