Mort Report is a labor of love by old-style correspondents with lifetimes on the road and young ones with fresh eyes. Our philosophy is simple: we report at first hand with analysis based on non-alternative fact, not opinion. If we get something wrong, we fix it.
TUCSON, Arizona - I'm an ocean and a continent away, in a sunny place with cactus blooms beginning to color a hopeful new spring, and I can barely see my keyboard. Like everyone who has felt the power and glory of Nôtre-Dame de Paris, I am eviscerated with grief.
We have no reliable facts yet on what and why. But we already know what it means. The world has lost a vital underpinning, for eight centuries a symbol of humanity's best urges on a planet hardly short of the other kind.
Much of the damage will be repaired. Perhaps Quasimodo the hunchback is still up there in one of those stone towers where Victor Hugo imagined him. But this is not about a building. Even if the cause was a tragic accident, this is a sign of terrifying times.
I happened to catch the first CNN newsflash. As all reporters do, I ran through possibilities. It is Holy Week now in a world smoldering with religious hatreds and political opportunists in Washington fanning the embers. Could it be evil-inspired arson?
Chances are the fault lies with construction crews at work among tinder-dry timbers. Yet instant reaction across anti-social media shows the extremes across today's boobosphere, which allows anyone to weigh in with blame and condemnation.
Donald Trump quickly made it about him, tweeting that the French should use aircraft to douse the flames, as if French authorities who have preserved their splendid 2,000-year-old city remarkably well need any uninformed kibitzing.
The Securité Civile in Paris offered a more useful tweet: “The release of water by aircraft could, in fact, cause the collapse of the entire structure.”
During 52 years in Paris, I've developed a deep respect for its firemen. When flames once flared in my Ile-Saint-Louis apartment, wailing sirens were at the door almost before I put down the phone. Now I live on the Seine and see Nôtre-Dame from the bow of my boat. The river brigade responds at blinding speed, but its water cannons could not reach flames high atop an imposing cathedral set back on a broad esplanade.
Firetrucks were delayed by traffic, in near-paralysis at rush hour because the mayor has shut down main thoroughfares, narrowed lanes and changed one-way streets in a campaign to make way for pedestrians and bikes.
Those are details. What matters now is Our Lady in pain.
TUCSON, Arizona - A Facebook remark by a Bosnian photographer I knew in Sarajevo bit like a scorpion: “I don't think it is OK that Mort Rosenblum retired Journalism and get himself to political activism.”
“Not retired from reporting,” I replied, “just saying things as I see them.” But I got his point. We worked for Associated Press back when fair and balanced was no laugh line. Objectivity was far less of a moving target.
We old-crocodile reporters haven't changed that much, but capital-letter “Journalism” has. At a time when authoritarians and big money divvy up a planet threatened by endgame, this ought to trouble us all.
These days, anyone with an internet link can be a journalist, regardless of motives or grasp of facts. Schools that taught ethics and tenets focus on how to deliver a message rather than getting it right.
America's attention has turned inward. Smart kids learn little about the real world. A senior in my international reporting class spent weeks focusing on Iraqi refugees and then told me Iraq's capital is Bangkok.
Excellent reporting in the “mainstream” and countless tributaries competes with hyped horseshit. Network news fixates on domestic trivia, barely scratching the surface of what matters to our very survival.
I spent 39 years on seven continents for AP. I spent two as editor of the International Herald Tribune when it was the gold standard for global news. Now it's time to step back to fit mosaic pieces into a big picture.
Mort Report is non-prophet. It claims no omniscience, sticking to facts and objective analysis. It is also a non-profit, with help from readers who care about their world. Click here if you'd like to join in.
My inspiration is I.F. Stone's Weekly, at its peak in in the 1960s, a blend of Izzy Stone's own reporting put into broad context. Christiane Amanpour's definition for new journalism is apt: Truthful but not neutral.
I'm now in Arizona where I teach two months each year. The border I've known since I was a kid is news as Donald Trump whips up fantasized fears that isolate Americans and force countless others to suffer.
Soon I'll be back in the wider world, which so many Americans ignore. Domestic issues won't matter when Earth is unlivable. People who hate us have already closed off much of the map for safe travel.