When Jane Kramer (pictured at right), a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, set out to write a book on American militia groups, she wasn't quite sure where to focus her attention. She had already interviewed group members in New Jersey, Maine and her hometown of New York, but it just didn't feel like she was getting to the heart of the matter. Then it clicked.
"I knew the only way to view the far right was to head to the Far West," Kramer says.
So head west she did, to Whatcom County, Wash., to be exact.
Kramer recently spoke of her experiences in the Northwest and as a foreign correspondent in a lecture titled "The Washington State Militia: A Foreign Correspondent at the End of the Line in America." Her talk, held at Homewood's Mudd Hall on Nov. 12, was the 33rd annual Frank R. Kent Memorial Lecture.
The Kent lecture series honors the late Baltimore journalist who served as a Sun correspondent in the 1920s and its managing editor for 10 years. Kent is perhaps best known as the country's first daily political columnist and was renowned for his commentary on national political issues.
Speakers chosen for the series--among them Edward R. Murrow, Ted Koppel and David Halberstam--have been respected journalists who try to offer insight on the roles and responsibilities of those in their field.
In that tradition, Kramer spoke of the challenge journalists face in maintaining objectivity while researching a subject.
"In this particular story I had to constantly fill the space between the mythologies and the real history of the people I was dealing with. It requires enormous digging," Kramer says. "The real challenge for the investigative reporter is going one step forward and always asking why. To any given answer there is causality. That is the key to the investigation."
Kramer, on leave from The New Yorker, began her research in 1996. As for her subject, the Washington state militia, Kramer says she cannot discuss in detail a "work in progress."