Monday, April 7, 2008

A Pulitzer Prize Pleasure

Today was a huge  and joyous day in the life of my good friend and colleague, Ellen and her family.  Her two sons are accomplished journalists. Today her older son, Steve Fainaru, won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his work on Blackwater and other private security firms accused of abuses and excessive force in Iraq.   In addition to reconstructing the shooting of civilians by Blackwater guards, he has written about being embedded with the troops several times during his repeated  trips to Iraq between 2005-2008.  We held our breath each time he was in the dangerous territory, and exhaled upon his safe return, with close calls reported later or not at all. 

In a painful, emotionally contradictory moment, Steve received the call on Friday that he had won the Pulitzer, while attending the funeral of an American contractor he knew well who was kidnapped and killed shortly after Steve's departure from a trip to Iraq. Steve is passionate about the stories that need to be told about the war, the personal toll, personal loyalties, as well as disasters and the jarring cognitive dissonance experienced while in Iraq. 

Originally a sports journalist, like his younger brother Mark Fainaru-Wada ( Game of Shadows, about the BALCO scandal), he has written extensively about baseball. His book, The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream was published in 2001. Stories looking at the psychological make up of a campus shooter, and other character based articles followed. And then the war erupted. 

The Australian and American contractors  whose remains were recently found, feature significantly in his upcoming book, tentatively called Big Boy Rules: In the Company of America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq. You can access the Washington Post on-line, enter his name and register (free) in order to read the stories he has recently written. Although the war is a topic we Americans avoid, whether in movies or in the press, it is information that must be brought to our attention.  I'm grateful we have committed and talented reporters like Steve to shine a light on those dark places.

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