ALGERIAN DIARY by Gerald Davis


Frank Kearns and the "Impossible Assignment" for CBS News
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Containing unedited journal entries and copious explanatory chapters, this book offers a rare glimpse at a legendary journalist at work during the earliest days of TV.

In 1957, Algerian rebels were attempting to free themselves from French rule. The ragtag army was isolated and underequipped, and the leaders of developed nations didn’t know how to interpret their revolution. American reporter Frank Kearns dove into the fray with cameraman Yousef Masraff; they journeyed through the countryside with militiamen in an attempt to document their story. Kearns’ journal is a raw chronicle of daily events, most of which are death-defying: “After only 2 1/2 hours of sleep, run for cover before I know what’s happening,” he recounts. “Everyone takes cover. The B-26 returns for another look—then disappears. If he didn’t see us, nothing will happen. If he DID see us, we’ll know soon enough…artillery shells, bombing and strafing.” The first-draft, blow-by-blow account is riveting, and his entries illuminate a daring journalist puzzling his way through a vicious quagmire. Just as importantly, Davis’ first book blatantly attacks modern media. “It is a reminder of how much our country has lost with the dumbing down, downsizing, and trivialization of most of our news today,” says Tom Fenton in his caustic introduction. Using technology that now seems antiquated, Kearns and Masraff lugged a few hundred pounds of film equipment through the African hills, dodging bullets with every turn. Their candid black-and-white photographs help bring the conflict to life—not just as a series of firefights, but as a daily experience. In the epilogue, Davis notes that much of this work was never aired since it took so long for the footage to reach CBS headquarters, and Americans were generally indifferent to African affairs—but the author helps to resurrect a significant journalist.

As if to make up for the lack of appreciation during Kearns’ life, Davis offers a loving tribute to a fearless reporter.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-933202-62-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2015


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