May 05, 2004

Why John Burns is in Baghdad

John Burns, the New York Times' Pulitzer-winning bureau chief in Iraq, tells the New York Observer why he, and other Times reporters, choose to report from Baghdad despite the dangers:

"At least to speak for myself, I donít think that bravery has much do with it. I think itís the sense of being at the heart of the matter. Of reporting about something that engages the keen attention of just about everybody in America. I donít want to sound grandiloquent about the position of The New York Times in American life, but there are many people who depend on us to report on what is happening here. We have to find a way to continue to cover this."

He also explains his hair:

"'Why do I not go to the barber very often?' he said. 'This may be an affectation, but itís true. My father was an air force generalóRoyal Air Force. Twenty years ago, I went to have my hair cut in England, and in talking to the woman cutting my hair, she said that her father, a pilot, was killed with the Royal Air Force in Germany. And I said, "Oh, my father was there at the time." We quickly discovered that it was the same time. The following morningóI was staying at a hotel in the West Endóshe came to my room and said, "I want to show you a photograph." And it was the photograph of her mother and herself as a young child at the funeral of this pilot, and my parents, my father in uniform and my mother, standing on either side of her. And she said, "My mother said your parents were so kind that I wasnít to charge you for the haircut." And I said, "Iíve got a better idea than that. Charge me for the haircut, but I will never have my hair cut anywhere else again other than by you." And I have not had my hair cut by any other person than that woman in 20 years, and Iím not very often in England.'"

Posted by Tim Porter at May 5, 2004 07:09 AM