David Halberstam was one of America's most distinguised journalists and historians. After graduating from Harvard in 1955, he covered the beginnings of the civil rights movement, then was sent overseas by the New York Times to report on the war in Vietnam. The author of fifteen bestsellers, including The Best and the Brightest, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam reporting at the age of thirty. He was killed in a car accident on 23 April 2007, while on his way to an interview for what was to be his next book.
The following is an extract from a tribute paid to David Halberstam at his memorial service by his colleague at the New York Times, Dexter Filkins. Like Halberstam, Filkins won the prestigious George Polk Award, for his reporting from Fallujah in 2004, and he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his dispatches from Afghanistan:
'I spent much of the past four years covering the war in Iraq for the same newspaper that David worked for. I know I can I speak for all the reporters there when I say that we felt that David was always with us. And that he had gone before us...
In Iraq, when the official version didn't match what we were seeing on the streets of Baghdad, all we had to do--and we did it a lot--was ask ourselves: what would Halberstam have done? And then the way was clear.
We were sustained by David's example: Halberstam threatening to resign if the paper spiked his story. Halberstam calling out General Harkins. Halberstam fording the stream.
But mostly it was just Halberstam telling the truth. Laying out the facts, one after the other--in those long wonderful sentences of his. David taught us a great lesson--and not just to the reporters in Iraq, but to anyone who has ever tried to hold his government to account. And that is, the truth is not just a point of view. Truth does not adhere to the person who shouts the loudest. And truth does not necessarily belong to the people with the most power. David taught us that the truth is real and that the truth is knowable--and most of all by the person on the ground who sees it up close.'