Where Are They Now?

The reporters, I mean. Are they all embedded?

William Essex


Typewriter with a sheet of paper in it. On the paper, the word INVESTIGATION is printed, in capital letters too large to have been typed on this typewriter.
I put in ‘journalist’ and this was among the results. Conveniently for my story, I couldn’t find the same word shown on a more modern device. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Where are the investigative journalists?

To start the day with a wild, irrational thought — in the natural world, we worry about the disappearance of the bees. In the human world, we no longer seem to have investigative journalists.

Yes, I know that you can get jobs in investigative journalism now, and even take degrees, but where were the wild-eyed youngsters searching for tunnels in the basements of hospitals in Gaza? When the story was live, I mean, and before the release of that official clip of a hole in the ground?

Why am I always seeing the same correspondents in their bulletproof vests, with their mournful voices, telling me the same stories on the quarter-hour from the car parks where they’re based? Why not frontline reports from definitely-not-embedded independent investigators making their own enquiries?

Yes, I know about Bellingcat, and yes, I know that a missile would land on the head of anybody foolish enough to connect from a frontline position, but — not even a notebook? Not even a film camera?

I was scrolling down through Time’s online collection of Vietnam War photographs — some less familiar to me — when I came to this comment by the photographer David Burnett.

“In the days before ‘embeds’ — this generation’s enforced melding of photographer and military unit — there was a certain sense of freedom we owned as photographers, being able to go directly to where the story was. In Vietnam in the early 1970s, the only real limitation was finding a ride.”

Maybe Uber doesn’t do war zones.

There’s a lot online about Vietnam as the first “television war”. We could describe the Arab Spring as the first “smartphone war”. Today, we have the notion of citizen journalism.

But I still have that uneasy feeling that I sometimes get in my garden. Can’t put my finger on it exactly, but — something’s missing.



William Essex

Former everything. I still write books, I still write stories. Author of The Book of Fake Futures, The Journey from Heaven, Escape Mutation.