From "The American Editor"
Published by the American Society of Newspaper Editors
Tribute: An unforgetable mix of talent and charm
To his friends and colleagues he was always 'Danny,'
and his rare combination of professional skill and personal
charisma will be greatly missed.
By Lawrence Ingrassia
The Wall Street Journal has about 400 reporters. But
any time in the past decade someone at the Journal mentioned
the name Danny, everyone else instantly knew who it
Danny Pearl. Never Dan. Never Daniel (except in his
byline). Just Danny.
At the Journal, with dozens of bureaus around the world,
and many reporters who've never met each other, getting
noticed isn't easy for a new, young reporter. Danny
got noticed, right away, after starting at the Journal
in 1990. For me, it wasn't for the beaming smile that
the whole world now recognizes. It wasn't for his soft-spoken
charm that lit up everything around him. It wasn't for
his generosity to friends, colleagues and strangers.
That's not why I noticed Danny, not initially anyway.
I still hadn't met him, because back then he was a reporter
in our Atlanta bureau, and I was Boston bureau chief.
What caught my eye from afar was Danny's graceful and
clever writing, and his knack for getting into the shoes
- heck, the socks - of people he was writing about.
For a young reporter, his range was surprising. He crafted
thought-provoking social analyses (on what it was like
for African-American cops, despised as turncoats by
inner city youths, in the wake of the acquittal of the
cops who beat Rodney King) to delightfully whimsical
"A-heds" (about Southerners taking "accent
reduction" lessons to lose their drawl).
Like most Journal bureau chiefs, I kept a mental short
list of up-and-coming hotshots. "I want this guy,"
I said to myself. After I moved to London, I got him.
What made Danny a first-rate foreign correspondent was
his ability to put readers in places they never have
been, so they could see and smell and hear what a person
or country is like. A lot has been written about Danny
being a master of the Journal "A-hed." He
was, of course. But Danny was a serious journalist with
intellectual depth and breadth.
Danny refused to do the easy story. Early on, I stopped
suggesting he ought to do a specific idea. If it was
straightforward enough for an editor sitting behind
a desk to come up with, Danny figured it wasn't worth
Instead, I learned to ask Danny whether it might be
the right time to look into a certain topic. Invariably,
he came up with an angle far more insightful, provocative
and richly textured than I possibly could have.
"Hey, it's Danny," he would always say, whether
calling from a dusty village in Sudan or a five-star
hotel in Dubai. Then he'd regale me with what he was
picking up on the ground that was the real story.
His take often was surprising and enlightening. Like
his 1996 front page story on relations between Iran
and the United States, reporting that - despite all
the heated rhetoric from Tehran about the "great
Satan" - what made many young Iranians most angry
was that they couldn't get visas to visit America. Or
his front page story on ethnic cleansing in the Balkans
- focusing on the fact that Serbs, who were perpetrators
of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, themselves had been victims
of ethnic cleansing in Croatia.
Always, the stories landed on my desk with his creative
flair, like his tale of the rival claims of Ethiopia
and Yemen over which was the home of the Queen of Sheba.
It ran with two, virtually identical leads he wrote:
AXUM, Ethiopia - Her name was Makeda, better known
as the Queen of Sheba. The Bible records that she ruled
a rich kingdom from here, according to locals who tell
legends about the wise, beautiful African queen. Soon,
Ethiopians hope, her tomb here will be found. ...
MARIB, Yemen - Her name was Bilqis, better known as
the Queen of Sheba. The Koran records that she ruled
a rich kingdom from here, according to locals who tell
legends about the wise, beautiful Arab queen. Soon,
Yemenis hope, her tomb here will be found. ...
Perhaps my personal favorite was an A-hed that didn't
run the way he initially wrote it. After reporting a
story on Russia trying to harvest caviar by having surgeons
cut open sturgeons, remove their eggs and then sew the
fish back up - rather than fishermen killing them -
Danny filed the story as a poem, playing on the surgeon-sturgeon
rhyme. It was hilarious.
Alas, editors in New York foolishly asked him to re-do
it in prose.
Danny had a sense of humor about himself, too. He had
arrived in London with a ponytail, but got his hair
cut to mid-length cut before his first Mideast trip,
figuring the ponytail might complicate his reporting.
Later, he got his hair cut even shorter. Curious, I
asked why. Sheepishly, he explained that a gun-toting
security guard at a Mideast hotel had made a pass at
him, and he wanted to avoid that.
Danny's desk reflected his jaunty personality. Many
newsrooms nowadays resemble insurance offices, with
row after row of bland cubicles. Now picture Danny's:
it was adorned mementos from his trips - a rug with
the visage of King Hussein of Jordan, a giant water
pipe, prayer beads. And a beach chair. ("I want
to meet this guy. Where is he?" asked Elisabeth
Goth, a member of the family that has a controlling
interest in Dow Jones & Co., which owns the Wall
Street Journal, when walking past Danny's desk while
In addition to collecting things, he collected friends
and admirers everywhere. A Journal reporter recalls
bumping into a woman in an obscure Guatemalan town whose
face lit up when he told her where he worked.
Her response: "Wow, that's great. But do you know
Danny Pearl?" She'd seen Danny at a party in upstate
New York, and was captivated by his violin playing -
and good looks.
Danny's circle included a Bulgarian shoe salesman named
George, who asked Danny for the time on the London subway,
a heavy-drinking and often unemployed Scottish construction
worker named Andrew, and an Irish fiddle player, Belgian
bassist and an Slovakian singer who jammed with Danny
at a blues bar in London's Soho.
And Mariane, Danny's wife, whom he met at a party in
French broadcast journalist of Cuban and Dutch descent,
beautiful, smart, exotic. An intoxicating mixture for
Danny who had the highest of standards for everything.
with Danny to my going away party in London. Everyone's
were on them, but they were oblivious, with eyes only
Danny's eclectic group of friends assembled at a French
for their enchanting wedding in August 1999. Afterwards,
I sent a
photo of Danny and his new bride to one of his former
with the message: "The photo that broke 100 hearts."
"Make that 101."
Now, there are millions of broken hearts. For my friend
and colleague, a brightly shining light I will never,
never, never forget. Danny.
Ingrassia, Money & Investing editor of The Wall
Street Journal, was a friend and colleague of Danny