Steven Vincent: Take Advantage of the Simple Freedom…

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Reader Greg Scruggs, due to graduate college in 2008, shares a note about Steven Vincent. It reads in part:

[When it first appeared,] I…read "Faith, Shame, and Insurgency" and was transfixed. Despite (or, more likely, because of) Vincent's lack of ideology and independent, freelance status, I felt that the article had more authority behind it than any other piece of writing—liberal, conservative, or otherwise—that I'd read about Iraq.

As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that I wrote Mr. Vincent an e-mail expressing my admiration for the article and asking him about how he got into the freelance journalism business (a field which, as a high school senior on the cusp of college, I was thinking about pursuing . . . and as a rising college sophomore, still am). Not only did he respond—and from his apartment in Baghdad no less—he also wrote me probably the best advice I've received yet in my life. He offered tips on how to get into journalism and words of wisdom on how to approach it once there (he was adamant about maintaining an independent voice, which he himself said he was slowly cultivating with his freelance political writing). Perhaps more enticing, however, was his wild and daunting vision of the best way to spend one's twenties . . . working shit jobs, being a down and outer in Paris and London, generally taking advantage of the simple freedom that accompanies that decade of your life in the most exuberant ways possible.

Now 19, and in light of yesterday's events, I am even more appreciative of his counsel.

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  1. If spending your twenties doing all sorts of odd things is the way to become a good journalist, then I handled that decade correctly.

    And I’ve got nothing but admiration for a guy dedicated enough to an ideal to go it alone in Iraq.

  2. No offense to MR. Vincent, but once you reach 28, you realize you would’ve been better off if you had filled out those law school applications instead of backpacking through garlic country.

  3. http://spencepublishing.typepad.com/in_the_red_zone/ is Steven Vincent’s blog, or at least part of it, presumably moved to another server.
    Click around, follow links. He was murdered for publicizing what embedded reporters and press conference attendees know not to say about the supposedly free Iraq– for instance, letting on that former members of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi’s Army are now policemen in Basra, women are still subjugated as before, Iraq’s socialized energy industry is causing an electricity shortage, Iraqis get government jobs because they’re members of radical theocratic parties, and that the Iraqi government is paying an insurgent organization protection money.

  4. “No offense to MR. Vincent, but once you reach 28, you realize you would’ve been better off if you had filled out those law school applications instead of backpacking through garlic country.”

    Wow, I couldn’t agree less. I spent my twenties (and a bit of my thirties…) running amok both in the US and UK / Europe and I don’t regret a minute of it. Now I’m 38, married with two kids and a good business. There is no chance of me living a crazy life in London again and that’s OK. But at least I did it. If I had stayed put and gone to law school I would have missed so much I can’t even imagine what I’d be like. Very boring I’m sure.

  5. Wow, this guy was an actual journalist. A real loss, I’d say.

    If I were Mega-Dictator For A Day, I’d make the entire WH Press Corps spend a month freelancing from Basra–without bodyguard. Yes, including Helen Thomas…

  6. The world needs boring people too, Danny.

  7. GJ – You have no soul 🙂

    Judge Smails – Who’s Danny?

  8. Yes, the world needs boring people and god knows I’m one of them these days. Still, I had 15 years when I was anything but BORED.

    BTW, who is Danny?

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