The Insider: A High- to Low-Brow Night

Nov 30, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The evening started with a mad post-work dash to the International Press Freedom Awards dinner, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 18th annual benefit. The event raised almost $2.25 million last Tuesday and reminded all the working press there of just how good we have it in this country—cutbacks, unwanted buyout offers, layoffs and all.
We may feel beat down, but the honorees (and their presenters) at the CPJ dinner literally risk limb and life in their pursuit of truth-telling in countries and situations where truth and officialdom are often at odds.
Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer whose work helped the Associated Press win a Pulitzer Prize, was detained by the U.S. Marines and held without being charged for two years. Without a visa, Mr. Hussein (through a translator) had to make his remarks via satellite.
Andrew Mwenda, a crusading political journalist in Uganda, is facing 21 criminal charges, including “promoting sectarianism” and sedition. His home and offices at the Independent magazine in Kampala were raided in April.
Pajhwok Afghan News’ director Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad, managing editor/news director, can testify to the pressures of reporting under the Taliban and amid the culture clash of a country teetering between restrictive tradition, modernization and disarray.
Hector Maseda Gutierrez also was honored in absentia. The Cuban journalist was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for acting against “the territorial integrity of the state.”
Beatrice Mtetwa is a Zimbabwe media and human rights lawyer who received her award from New York Times reporter Barry Bearak. She had successfully defended Mr. Bearak after he and a British freelancer were arrested earlier this year under an obsolete press-accreditation law.
The hundreds in the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom–no other venue in New York City creates quite the same gala glow–added up to as cosmopolitan a mix as can be found outside the United Nations headquarters a few blocks away. The NBC Universal turnout was particularly noticeable. D’ya think it might be because NBCU President-CEO Jeff Zucker was chairman of the evening?
Among those standing out at the numerous NBCU tables: Andrea Mitchell in a bright red number that managed to seem both classic and cutting-edge; CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, fresh off a scoop and fluffed up nicely in a sort of gilty purple strapless frock, and Dylan Ratigan, who never seemed to stop networking.
As much as it pains The Insider to say this, host Gwen Ifill’s schoolmarmish chiding “shhhs” might have played better during her turn as presidential debate moderator than it did during a grown-ups’ evening that was as much celebration of heroes as sober reminder of people and perils that must not be forgot.
On the other hand, the efficiency of the program meant The Insider was home in time to catch the second hour of the “Dancing With the Stars” finale, certainly the most satisfying outcome yet, and to finish her online benefits enrollment about an hour before the midnight deadline.
In her next life, The Insider, who is built like Warren Sapp, wants to come back looking more like Brooke Burke. She’d be happy being able to move like either one of them.


  1. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  2. I’m inspired to write more on my blogs. Thanks.

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