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Middle East correspondent went from witnessing history to trying to help

By Billy O'Keefe

MICHELLE D. ANDERSON / The Working Press
Martin Fletcher’s journey to Atlanta started three days ago.
Fletcher, the Tel Aviv bureau chief and correspondent for NBC News, was in Tanzania reporting on how witchdoctors are threatening the East African nation’s albino population.

Martin Fletcher, left, signs an autograph. (Photo by James Brosher / The Working Press)

Martin Fletcher, left, signs an autograph. (Photo by James Brosher / The Working Press)

Along with the story — which he called “the most bizarre” he’s ever covered — Fletcher shared many other anecdotes with a group of journalists during an SPJ convention session on Friday.
He also shared his views on objectivity and fairness.
“Objectivity has become a red herring because it doesn’t exist. What I try to be is fair,” Fletcher said. “I don’t ask myself if I’m being as objective as possible. I try telling the source’s stories the best I can.”
Fletcher said he constantly asks himself, “What’s the right thing to do?” It’s the most difficult part of his job, he added.
Fletcher’s career overseas includes reporting ventures in Johannesburg, Paris and Frankfurt. He’s covered several developments throughout the Middle East.
He reported from Germany when the Berlin Wall came down and from China after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“The first 10 years of my career was just an extraordinary chase — an adrenaline rush,” the award-winning journalist said. “It was an exciting experience, witnessing events and history.
“At a certain point it changed.”
After one story in Israel, Fletcher said he developed a new purpose as a journalist.
“To me it was no longer chasing events and covering people,” he said. “It was ‘How can I can help?’”
Fletcher, who’s covered virtually every major event in the Middle East for 35 years, said he tries to spend as much time as possible in the field to get his information.
His work, which often encompasses depressing subjects, has shaped his views on human nature, he said.
“It’s good and bad,” he said, adding that some of the events and dilemmas he reports on are often “inconceivable.”
His recent book, “Breaking News” came out in March. He is now working on a new book about Israel.