Piecing together the life of a war journalist, in fiction and in practice

March 6, 2012

Listen to a conversation with playwright Donald Margulies and photojournalist Carolyn Cole

Some think that the job of a journalist used to be clearer: to step back and let the story speak for itself. But in times of increasing transparency about who is telling our stories and how they are telling them, greater attention has been placed on the actors themselves. This has been especially been the case for foreign war correspondents, who have come under deeper scrutiny over the rigors of their work.

Perhaps no story has made this point this better in recent weeks than the death of New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, who died from an asthma attack while working in Syria. The New York Times was joined by other members of the press in their thorough coverage of Shadid's death, as they mourned a peer and tried to make sense of their loss. On the Times website, the story of Shadid's passing was above the proverbial fold for 24 hours.

But even before Shadid's death, female journalists were bearing a large portion of the attention for their work overseas -- especially after CNN correspondent Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted while covering the Egyptian Revolution. Some questioned the ability of women to cover war and events overseas.

Steppenwolf Theatre attempts to tackle these issues through their staging of Donald Margulies' play Time Stands Still, which premiered on Broadway in 2010 with Laura Linney in the role of Sarah Goodwin, a photojournalist who struggles with her personal life after returning home injured. The current production stars Sally Murphy in the title role.

While Margulies did not base Sarah on any one journalist, he was clearly inspired by the stories of real-life female reporters. But where does of their lives truth end and fiction of it begin? On Eight Forty-Eight, we'll talk with Carolyn Cole, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for her work in Liberia, as well as Margulies, to get a better idea of what the realities are for women in this field.