It is strange that we can talk about the death of journalism at a time when the ability to share information is at its highest ever, but it makes sense. Cable TV news channels can dispense information 24 hours a day, but according to the law of diminishing returns, less and less of this is quality journalism.
I could spend all of a rainy day at my computer reading articles that cover political, economic, and social realities/conflicts/happenings around the world, and in the end I might feel that I have only a passing understanding of any of them. The worst situation for a news junkie such as myself is that I read too much, leading to apathy as I find it hard to commit much thought to any one newsworthy event.
The Blur of Tragedy
A similar blurring of events is noted by Joe Sacco in his new book of comics journalism, Footnotes in Gaza. As Sacco tries to piece together accounts of two Gaza Strip killings in 1956, he finds that some of the Palestinians he interviews have lived through so many conflicts that their memories of a single day blur into those of events decades later. More often, the refugees he talks with feel he is wasting his time reporting on forgotten atrocities of the past, when so much is happening right now.
The Real People of the Gaza Strip
However, by investigating the killing of dozens (if not hundreds) of Palestinians in the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, Sacco is able to give the reader some history and insight into the state of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict today. In nearly 400 pages of detailed black & white drawings, we are introduced to a variety of Gaza Strip residents and their stories, ranging from vengeful fedayeen to grief-stricken mothers who hurl insults at the militants who invite Israeli raids and home demolitions.
Journalistic Comic Value
To me, the great value in Joe Sacco's journalistic comics is that they bring the conflict and its participants to life. It is too easy to turn away from a story that speaks only of "Israeli Defense Forces" and "Palestinian militants," but it is harder to ignore the actual names, faces, personalities, and memories of those interviewed in this work. If you'd like to read more, you can find Footnotes in Gaza, as well as Sacco's earlier works, Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, and The Fixer in our library system.
Chris Gray is an Extra Help Librarian (mostly working in San Carlos, Foster City, and Pacifica). He is 30 years old and moved to San Francisco from southwest Florida in March of 2009. When he’s not reading science fiction, comics, or cookbooks, he likes to listen to all kinds of music, hang out in parks looking for animals, cook, and make abstract video art.