Ryszard Kapuściński kept two notebooks when he was on the road. One was for his job as an agency reporter, haring about the world, meeting deadlines and battling to file stories whose transmission was paid for out of the pittance of worthless communist currency he received from Warsaw. The other was for his calling as a writer, making reflective, creative, often lyrical sense out of what he was experiencing. To mix the two notebooks up is to miss the point of him. Artur Domoslawski’s book, from what is reported about it, suggests that Kapuściński was a dishonest reporter who made up stories about events he hadn’t seen, and invented quotes. This is to confuse his journalism with his books. Almost all journalists, except for a handful of saints, do on occasion sharpen up quotes or slightly shift around times and places to heighten effect. Perhaps they should not, but they – we – do. A few of us go beyond the unwritten rules of what is tolerable, and send our papers eyewitness accounts of events we never saw because we were somewhere else. That, in the profession’s general view, is right off the reservation – not on.
more from Neal Ascherson at The Guardian here.