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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at
April 8, 2004

Media Matters

A Sense of Responsibility

This last week has been extraordinary for me.

Some months ago, Jon Alpert, a multi Emmy Award winning producer, asked my help on a project.

Two young film makers, Craig and Brent Renaud, who worked with his group down at DCTV [a non-profit production company housed in New York’s oldest firehouse], had approached the Arkansas National Guard and been given permission to cover the story of their call up to Iraq and to go with them through training and deployment. With their own money, followed on by some from NHK, Jon and the Renaud brothers began their film.

To finish, Jon needed more partners. As I viewed the footage, I thought of Discovery Times, particularly since I knew the New York Times, a 50% partner in the network, was carefully following the status of several Guard units as they were moving through the call up. Discovery Times bought in; I organized an international sales partner.

With the clock ticking on all fronts, the project was a roller coaster of a negotiation, with a need to finish the deal before Brent Renaud got on a plane to Kuwait to join his brother Craig. At 4:00 a.m. Craig managed to crawl around his desert base and find a working fax machine to get back to us a document that was needed while in New York Brent was packing up their bullet proof vests.

As all pressured negotiations are, this was fraught with emotion, slips from speed on all sides, tangled communications, days of cell phone calls at odd hours, while people worked through sickness and through hours when they should have been sleeping.

But we got it done.

I wrote a thank you note to all the people involved, on every side; everyone of us worked like hell to get this done because as people got deeper and deeper into this everyone knew that this was going to be an important film because it shows us the faces of the men and women who are paying the price for our involvement in Iraq.

The morning after I sent the thank you, I got one back from Brent, now in a desert camp in Kuwait, waiting to convoy up to Baghdad, using a few precious minutes of internet time. He thanked me for everything I had done to get him there. I had heard from Jon the day before that he and Craig were excited, pleased, delighted to be there, their cameras at the ready, in the middle of their story.

When I finished reading Brent’s note, I put my head down on my desk and cried.

When my friend Joe came back from Iraq in the fall, I breathed easier, thinking [I now realize] that I felt I was off the hook. No one else I knew and loved would be going.

But now there are two young men in Iraq, not soldiers but journalists, met as they scuttled back and forth from edit rooms while I was visiting DCTV at various times, soft southern voices, well-mannered, at the other end of phones, breaking backs and nearly necks to get me what I needed to get the business done.

Now they are there. As Brent walked through camp, a mortar shell landed and killed a soldier a hundred yards away.

I am not responsible but feel so because I have come to respect two young men who are literally risking their lives to tell their story and are feeling joyously, passionately, fiercely alive in the doing. I have been a participant in their adventure.

While I have not practiced Catholicism for decades, I stopped at St. Anthony’s and lit two candles, one for each brother and one for the ANG. I have come to know some of them through the footage I have seen.

We should all know these people; they are the ones on the line for our adventures.

Part I will premiere on Discovery Times on April 20th. Two more hours will follow as soon as events permit. Watch and meet your countrymen.