Algerian Diary
208 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Mar 2016
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Algerian Diary

Frank Kearns and the "Impossible Assignment" for CBS News

By Gerald Davis; Foreword by Tom Fenton
West Virginia University Press

Frank Kearns was the go-to guy at CBS News for danger- ous stories in Africa and the Middle East in the 1950s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. By his own account, he was nearly killed 114 times. He took stories that nobody else wanted to cover and was challenged to get them on the air when nobody cared about this part of the world. But his stories were warning shots for conflicts that play out in the headlines today.

In 1957, Senator John Kennedy described America’s view of the Algerian war for independence as the Eisenhower Administration’s “head in the sand policy.” So CBS News decided to find out what was really happening there and to determine where Algeria’s war for independence fit into the game plan for the Cold War. They sent Frank Kearns to find out.

Kearns took with him cameraman Yousef (“Joe”) Masraff and 400 pounds of gear, some of which they shed, and they hiked with FLN escorts from Tunisia, across a wide “no-man’s land,” and into the Aures Mountains of eastern Algeria, where the war was bloodiest. They carried no passports or visas. They dressed as Algerians. They refused to bear weapons. And they knew that if captured, they would be executed and left in unmarked graves. But their job as journalists was to seek the truth whatever it might turn out to be.

This is Frank Kearns’s diary. 

In an era of journalism now where the model is more attuned to balderdash based on weak or invalid claims, Kearns's work stands as an honorable model of what good reporting is.'
— Terry Wimmer, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and editor, and professor of journalism at the University of Arizona 
A fine book about a fascinating individ- ual doing cutting edge work in the early years of television war reporting.'
— Tom Herman, former field producer for CNN and correspondent for NPR 
George Esper, the former AP Bureau Chief in Saigon when it fell during the Vietnam War, told us that journalists write the first chapters of history, and that’s certainly what Frank Kearns was doing in Algeria.’
—Chip Hitchcock, documentary filmmaker 
All of us who worked as foreign correspondents covering the Cold War risked being thought of as in cahoots with the CIA. After all, correspondents in the communist bloc doubled as intelligence agents. As with Frank Kearns' reporting, any accused journalist's best defense is honest and insightful reporting without bias as to who are the bullies and the villains.’
—Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Information and Communications at the University of South Carolina, foreign correspondent from 1968 to 1980 and ABC News bureau chief in Moscow and Bonn, Germany

Gerald Davis is the producer, writer, and director of Frank Kearns: American Correspondent, a one-hour documentary film developed by Greenbriar Group Films in association with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. A native of Elkins, West Virginia, Davis earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the P. I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University, where he was a student of Frank Kearns. 

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