Editor's Notebook: Eagle to convene journalist colleagues of Daniel Pearl in timely talk

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If you're concerned about the country's political divide, the split may be more significant than you think.

An August survey by the Pew Research Center, the nonpartisan fact tank, confirms the current political polarity is wide and alarming.

"Nearly eight-in-ten Americans say that when it comes to important issues facing the country, most Republican and Democratic voters not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on basic facts," writes the Pew Research Center's John LaLoggia in the Aug. 23 article titled "Republicans and Democrats agree: They can't agree on basic facts."

If we can't agree on basic facts, how can we even pretend to get anything accomplished?

The divide we find our country in today undoubtedly would have been of great concern to journalist Daniel Pearl. His work in journalism brought a greater understanding between disparate philosophies, religions, cultures and political factions.

It's in this spirit that we kick off The Berkshire Eagle's Conversation Series this coming Thursday with a timely talk featuring three of Pearl's colleagues in journalism. Each has agreed to return to the Berkshires to engage in a conversation about the current national political atmosphere.

The doors at Barrington Stage Co.'s Boyd-Quinson Mainstage open at 6:30 p.m. Importantly, proceeds from this Eagle Conversation will go toward The Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship to benefit local students who intend to major in journalism or music in college. (See all the details at the end of this column.)

Future events in the series will touch on a variety of timely topics, featuring an array of experts holding forth conversations that ought to be entertaining, thought-provoking and insightful.

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Daniel Pearl was interested in and reported on issues that involved faith, civility and ethics, especially as those issues promoted cross-cultural understanding. In the course of investigating the network of terrorism for The Wall Street Journal, Pearl was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. He was 38.

Pearl had a deep connection to the Berkshires: He began his career at the North Adams Transcript and he landed his next reporting gig at The Eagle. From The Eagle, he joined the Journal.

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To that end, we have invited Alan Cooperman, the Rev. Jerome (Joe) Day and R. Gustav Niebuhr, who share Berkshire journalism connections to Pearl, to be part of our first Eagle Conversation.

Cooperman is the director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. He began his career as an Eagle reporter who went on to work at The Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. On an intriguing note, Pearl credited Cooperman early on with "saving his career" in journalism.

Day was the managing editor of the North Adams Transcript who saw something in Pearl and hired him for his first reporting job. Day went on to work at the Lowell Sun and later became ordained as a priest. He is now an assistant professor of English at St. Anselm College and the pastor of St. Raphael's Parish in Manchester, N.H.

Niebuhr is the director of programs in religion and media at Syracuse University and author of 2009's "Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America." He began his journalism career as an Eagle reporter, and went on to report for The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times. Niebuhr and Pearl were colleagues at The Wall Street Journal.

Cooperman, Day and Niebuhr don't need moderating, but I am honored to join them onstage as the moderator for this event. The group this week held a preparatory discussion by phone, and I was rapt.

We'll be taking questions from our audience, and we'll end the evening with their remembrances of Daniel Pearl.

We'll see you Thursday.

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The Berkshire Eagle's Conversation, on "faith, civility and ethics in the current national political atmosphere," is Thursday at Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield. Doors open at 6:30. Tickets are $18; $15 for subscribers or $10 with a valid student ID. The subscriber price is available only by phone or in person. The student discount is available only in-person.

Proceeds from this Thursday's Conversation support The Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2003 by The Eagle, the North Adams Transcript and Pearl's friends to benefit local, college-bound students who intend to major in journalism or music. Buy tickets at barringtonstageco.org or call 413-236-8888.

Kevin Moran started his journalism career at the North Adams Transcript. Today, he is executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle.


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