When I heard the news last week that Bob Simon had died, I immediately thought back to an interview I had done with him in 2010. It was at an event called the “Courage Forum.,” an ideas festival which took place the Museum of Modern Art hosted in New York City. It featured speakers who had demonstrated courage in various walks of life, among them tight rope artist Philippe Petit.
My memories of the interview had dimmed over the years. What I recalled were my feeble efforts to get one of the world’s great masters of journalistic interviewing technique to let down his guard. That didn’t happen.
Then I received an email from Matt Kohn, a filmmaker who happened to have filmed the Courage Forum as a part of a documentary on efforts to promote peace in the two Sudans. Kohn said that the interview had stuck with him over many years, and he offered to post it to Vimeo.
So here it is. Simon (to whom I was not related despite sharing a surname) recounts his experiences and recollections from a lifetime of frontline reporting. One of the more interesting exchanges occurs at 8 minutes, when he recalls his capture by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait at the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War. “Here I was being held by the Iraqis, and I was a Jew working in Israel,” said Simon, who was based in Tel Aviv as the senior Middle East correspondent for CBS News. “If they had found out about that, they would have killed me instantly.”
“Thank God Google didn’t exist back then,” I noted. Simon agreed.
This is just one small example of the ways in which the world has become more dangerous for journalists in the last two decades. Throughout his long career, Simon demonstrated courage on the frontline and in his convictions. Journalism is diminished without him.