I was stunned this morning when I read that David Halberstam, the newspaper reporter turned author was killed in a car accident. He was an icon.
He was always on a quest for truth in whatever topic he was reporting and he was a strong believer in every person's right to know what was happening in their government.
In the early spring of 1982, I was president of the mid-Michigan chapter of Sigma Delta Chi-the Society of Professional Journalists and we were hosting a regional convention for members at Michigan State University.
Our featured speaker was Halberstam who was invited by a mutual friend, Alex Kotlowitz, who was a young reporter at the State Capitol at that time and who has gone on to write a couple of his own best-selling books.
The night before his speech, several of us had supper with Halberstam at Emil's on the near eastside of Lansing. It was and still is a funky, neighborhood Italian Restaurant.
I remember being awe-struck by having dinner with one of the most famous reporters in the country. But, then we sat down and he seemed to be interested in everybody at the table. My memory fuzzes up on the details, but I think his wife had just given birth to a daughter. So had mine. We spent several minutes talking about disposable diapers and about other gear that you buy for a newborn baby.
If I recall correctly, at the time, he was doing research for a book about Detroit's auto industry. He very carefully went from person to person at the table asking for anecdotes about local plants and about people involved with automotive issues.
His incredible curiosity and his desire to get both sides of a story really stood out. I was inspired that night. He was a real example.
I think I'll go out to our garage and unpack my paperback copy of Halberstam's Best and the Brightest. Without a political agenda, he laid out in the book how America was duped into fighting the Vietnam War and how it lied to cover up its bad judgement.
The relevance of that book has probably never been greater.
I wonder how Halberstam felt about the diminishing role of mainstream media and the rise of the new media like blogs.