John Ross, Rebel with a Cause



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Dear Ruth,

Dear Ruth,

Let me offer something constructive. The question is this: what can The Progressive do in the future to take rebel reporters under your wing---and at least give that person some health insurance as well as space in your magazine?

The barriers to entry are lower now than ever before. Anybody can publish on YouTube these days. So if the rebel reporting events generate any dough, they should be husbanded into an account that will support someone like Ross. Don't just fold it into your operating budget. That would be like robbing his grave.

Peter White more than 1 year ago

Wow! That was good! Well done

Wow! That was good! Well done (you fellow 'sprites'!) -- on publishing this article.

An old saying goes something like: "A people without a vision, perish." John Ross and Brad Will both had a true vision. History (esp in our dead and deadly media) might try to forget such folk but 'the heavens' won't -- their names are indelibly etched on scrolls we do not see -- but can sense.
Better yet, though *they* are now less tangible, we here are still alive -- and kicking!

So let's never stop kicking ... at the doors of ignorance, greed and inhumanity. Who knows, we too then might one day get our names engraved on scrolls of honor residing in places far from newsstands and dire TV channels owned by rogues and knaves!

All power to us then -- and our striving ilk -- of which there are still many...


Kindred Sprite more than 1 year ago

Meeting John Ross

Meeting John Ross
Peter White
February 3, 2016

I am glad Bill Lueders has written John Ross’s obituary and summed up his life as an “anti-war correspondent”. Imagine the irony of his life—part John Reed, part I.F. Stone, part Studs Terkel---a deeply moral man who never made enough money reporting about what he saw to take care of his teeth.

Being a rebel journalist doesn’t come with health insurance, retirement benefits, stock options, or even a family life, something that animates most of us no matter what profession we choose.

Who John Ross really reminds me of is Joe Hill. He was a mythic figure, noble, passionate, articulate, and tragic because he was someone who couldn’t get out of his own way. “Ross is in no more danger of selling out than he is of finding a buyer,” quipped John Leonard, an editor at Harper’s. So the liberal intelligentsia knew him. They just wouldn’t employ him.

I met John Ross through another Latin American hand, Bill Gasperini, who reported for In These Times and the Christian Science Monitor after the Somosa dictatorship fell in Nicaragua in 1979.

Bill spent years writing, doing radio, and taking pictures, and like Ross, did so risking his life for peanuts. When he loaned 300 of his slides to a good New York liberal outfit, the Center for Humanities, they lost them and Gasperini sued. He won but the Center appealed because the $450,000 award was too large. They wanted Bill to accept $100,000 since he’d only made about $10,000 during all that time reporting with John Ross in Central America. So much for New York liberals who have never been shot at, which I know Bill has been, because I was there when we took fire from Contras on the Miskito Coast in 1986. I got $500 from Visnews for the story we filed. I felt bad because I don’t think I paid Bill much, if anything. The whole episode was a financial disaster. I got audited by the IRS for three years in a row. It was during the Reagan years.

I think Bill is working for Voice of America in Moscow now. I am sure he has had to give up some of his youthful idealism in order to collect a decent paycheck so he can live the life he chose as a foreign correspondent. I completely understand his choice to go for an outfit that backs him up. I wish him well and I am so glad he introduced me to John Ross. When I met Ross in 1994, he was withered, desiccated, and on fire with an urgency to tell his stories, so you simply shut up and listened to what he had to say. I was surprised to learn from Lueders that Ross had actually sat down and written ten books. I’d be surprised if he had that many clips from the publications who published him. I’ve written for all of them and they pay miserably.

The price of independence and passion in reporting is poverty—unless, of course, you happen to be funded by some rightwing outfit like the Scaife, Coors, Olin, or Bradley foundations. Sadly, the Progressive and even The Nation with all its donors don’t provide a decent wage to people like John Ross who died from neglect by lefty publications like this one. I know you don’t have the do-ray-me, as Woodie Guthrie sang, but if you want more John Rosses in your world, you need to figure out how to monetize their work. Until you do, there won’t be another John Ross for a long long time. He was one in a million.

Peter White more than 1 year ago

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