A few months ago, on July 21 to be exact, the world of journalism lost one of its bright lights. At the time I was completely unaware, was unaware in fact until a few days ago, that Alexander Cockburn even existed. It is probably a testament to my own erratic reading habits that I discovered Cockburn through Robin Blackburn’s obituary of him in the New Left Review. Blackburn attributes to Cockburn the founding of a new kind of radical journalism and says

Alexander saw journalism as a craft or trade and brooked no excuses for those who out of laziness- or cowardice- endorsed the idees recues of the age. (Blackburn NLR 76, p.68) 

The article goes on to tell the story of a challenging and insightful journalist who read the signs of the times with wit and accuracy. Cockburn was the founding editor of a political newsletter CounterPunch, a publication which I had heard of, but never paid any attention to; the loss it turns out was mine. I have since been going back and reading old articles, including some rather vitriolic exchanges with Christopher Hitchens. Vis-a-vis the whole Mother Teresa fiasco Cockburn comments:

Anyway, between the two of them, my sympathies were always with Mother Teresa. If you were sitting in rags in a gutter in Bombay, who would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup? You’d get one from Mother Teresa.  Hitchens was always tight with beggars, just like the snotty Fabians who used to deprecate charity. (CounterPunch

Now, maybe everyone else knows who Alexander Cockburn is, but we all almost certainly know about Hitchens. I can’t help but feel a little bit sad about that.