Some works of travel journalism leave me thinking of Richard Nixon: bewildered; hopped up on martinis and Dilantin; not knowing which part of Indochina to nuke first. Works much like Hari Kunzru’s article from this weekend’s Observer:
Legend has it that when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in April 1975, journalists watching from the balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club left in such a hurry that the people who opened the boarded-up building years later found cameras on the floor, complete with undeveloped images of the fighting…A dry local joke about the FCC is that it’s the only place where the city’s many NGO workers have to grit their teeth and make conversation with so-called ‘sexpats’.
Legend has it that the FCC opened its doors in Phnom Penh for the very first time in 1993. Legend also has it that a few months ago, the New York Times made the exact same mistake and then printed the following retraction:
The Next Stop column on Feb. 11, about a new liveliness in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, misstated the role of a bar and restaurant there called the Foreign Correspondentsâ€™ Club as a hangout for Western journalists. It opened in 1993; it did not exist during the reign of the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s, a time when few Westerners were in Cambodia.
A dry local joke about The Observer newspaper is that unlike Nixon, they value factual accuracy.
See: The Observer’s A new day dawns