This Is a delicate one. How do I praise an esteemed colleague for scoring a breakthrough, attention-grabbing, complicated, and perhaps even dangerous story while also cautioning readers to be suspicious of his story's content?
My hope is to make a point about the tough task facing journalists who swoop into a place run by a dictatorship known for its masterful media manipulation, and are expected to produce definitive reports based on their limited time in-country?
I'm speaking about the recent stories published in The Forward by Larry Cohler-Esses, who recently visited Iran at Teheran's invitation, making him the first journalist from an American Jewish, pro-Zionist publication to do so since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The mere fact of his trip was mainstream news, and understandably so. The New York Times, NPR, CNN, The Guardian, Haaretz, and other big names in American, European and, of course, Israeli journalism rushed to interview him about his experience.
A personal note: I have known Larry for a quarter century -- yup, I'm dispensing with AP style here; it seems too formal for a colleague. We met when he worked for a Jewish weekly in Washington, D.C., and I toiled for the competition in Baltimore, but we are not close. I know him to be a stickler for accuracy and a reporter with superb journalistic instincts who excels in tackling difficult subjects. I'm sure he accurately reported what he saw and was told.
Currently The Forward's assistant managing editor, it took Larry two years to get his visa for Iran, a sign of his tenacity. But perhaps also a sign of Iran's ability to time its moves to squeeze the most it can out of a situation.