Good reporters are unfortunately not that common, but what defines them is the ability to see accurately, intellectual integrity, a lucid prose, and a good instinct for developing sources. One of the things that can catapult a reporter beyond being merely good is a strong sense of empathy. Christie Blatchford, a long time newspaper reporter now writing for the Globe and Mail, has that sense and employed it while covering the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006.
The result is Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death Inside the New Canadian Army (Doubleday, Toronto, 2007). Each of her stories encapsulates a day in the campaigning of that year and concentrates on the men (and women – she also writes about Captain Nicola Goddard, our first female combat arms officer to die in battle) who were at the centre of a particular episode; describes the soldiers who died, and the lives they left behind them in Afghanistan and at home. Those who have spent 25 years reading her stories in four different newspapers might note that Ms. Blatchford has always had a fondness for writing about ordinary people with physical courage, honor, compassion and integrity. She found all she could handle among our soldiers and shares their stories with the rest of us.
The details of her book give a very clear view of how our Army was conducting itself in some extensive combat in 2006, of just what our soldiers are like, and how they have taken to warfare against the Jihad movement. These are compelling portraits of some of the finest people our country has, and Blatchford has probably surpassed herself.