The Breakfast Table

The Ever-More-Human Wall Street Journal

Dear Katie,

I’ve really enjoyed exchanging e-mail with you this week—now if I can just find someone who wants to buy the rest of the 817 e-mail messages I send every day—but I’m so sorry it has to end on a morning like this one. We spoke a bit about Daniel Pearl yesterday, when we thought there was at least a glimmer of a chance he might still be alive—I’m sorry I wasn’t around to respond to your late-day dispatch, when the news of his death arrived—and I’m not sure how much more I have to add. His death leaves me feeling woefully inarticulate.

Remember when, for a brief time, his kidnapping almost seemed like a bad joke—those e-mails from, and then the bizarre claims that he was a CIA or, later, a Mossad agent? Reports yesterday that he was seized because he was “anti-Islam and a Jew” seem like even more of a bad joke. Now the joke’s turned back around on us.

This morning’s Los Angeles Times story about Pearl ends on a note of desolate irony, reporting that Pearl’s last bylined story, which ran on Jan. 14, began, “Tensions between Pakistan and India showed signs of easing after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf outlined a broad crackdown on religious extremists operating in his country.”

I don’t specifically remember any of Pearl’s stories, though I’m sure I read a ton of them. He wrote a lot of those terrific, offbeat “A-head” pieces the Journal runs in the center of its front page. You know, I think I know exactly one person at the Journal, and I know her only slightly. It’s always seemed, from a distance, like a somewhat chilly place, though I’m really just basing that on the ultra-sober, ultra-formatted look of its front page. I don’t feel that way anymore. Ever since Sept. 11, when staffers there were forced to flee their building yet keep delivering superb stories, and certainly today, the Journal has a very human face indeed.