Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent and ABC News global affairs anchor, said she recalls screaming out loud when she learned of Marie Colvin's death.
Colvin, a reknowned international journalist from Oyster Bay, was killed Feb. 22, 2012 during a rocket attack amid violent conflict in Homs, Syria.
"When somebody like Marie Colvin has endured and survived for so long in the worst possible places ... You just don’t think this person is destructible," Amanpour said, speaking to a crowd of students, journalists, and community members on Tuesday night at the official kickoff for the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting.
"I remember saying, 'This is too much ... the price is too high,'" Amanpour said. "We were just stunned and staggered."
But now more than ever, she said, there is a need for skilled and passionate foreign correpsondents to tell the truth about the places where the biggest crimes against citizens and humanity are taking place. The "only way to be credible," she said, is to actually be there.
"There is no substitute for eyewitness news, for real people to go out and cover and gather real stories so they can come back and tell you firsthand what went on," Amanpour said. "It’s not OK to rely just on punditry, on armchair warriors, on people who have different opinions. It’s not OK just to rely on the huge amount of wire services that are out there. It’s not the way you tell the truth."
Foreign news coverage is shrinking: According to an American Journalism Review report, 18 major newspapers and two major news chains closed down their foreign operations between 1998 and 2011. AJR writes:
"Many other papers and chains reduced their coterie of foreign correspondents, meticulously choosing which bureaus to close. What's more, an untold number of regional and local papers have dramatically decreased the amount of foreign news they publish. Television networks, meanwhile, slashed the time they devote to foreign news and narrowed their focus largely to war zones. ... Many editors say that kind of reporting was a luxury. Now, with some noteworthy exceptions, it is a relic, gone the way of paper tape and the pica pole. Unlike those artifacts of days past, foreign bureaus were not replaced by new technology. They were not replaced at all."
But now, Stony Brook University leaders have said the Colvin Center promises to train the next generation of foreign correspondents through curriculum and other program opportunities; through raising awareness of the need in society for in-depth foreign news coverage; and through establishing a fellowship to bring in outstanding foreign correspondents to teach at Stony Brook.
Amanpour recently to Stony Brook's Journalism Without Walls program to send a group of student journalists to Kenya – a group that produced this series on what they saw in Kenya. And following Amanpour's talk, School of Journalism Dean Howard Schneider announced that she had also made a $50,000 donation to the School of Journalism – a donation that will be matched by the Simons Foundation for a total impact of $100,000.
Amanpour was joined onstage at one point by Cat Colvin, Marie Colvin's sister, who said she couldn't imagine a more perfect tribute.
"Marie always thought she could say it better, do it better, rework it," Cat Colvin said. "She held herself to a high standard. ... [She] worked really hard to bring home the horror of war."
Amanpour reflected on Colvin's skill, professionalism, and demeanor, saying she relied on her moral strength and her sense of humor to make it through the tough times. "Marie made a difference," she said.
"Everytime I saw her in the field, she was happy," Amanpour said. "Despite all the things that can really be so difficult when you’re doing this job 24/7, she was happy she was doing this job because she knew why she was doing it."