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VOA's Coverage of Sadat Assassination: Being Right Before Being First


VOA's globe-trotting news correspondents have been witness to many history-making events over the years. In the fall of 1981, Gil Butler was just a year into his first overseas assignment as VOA's Middle East correspondent, based in Cairo.

"It was an incredible experience, and it led to one of the biggest stories that I ever covered or ever would have covered in my career, and that was the assassination of Anwar Sadat," Mr. Butler said.

During a military parade, a group of soldiers suddenly rushed the reviewing stand, hurling grenades and spraying machine gun fire toward President Sadat.

"Voice of America was very early reporting the shots fired at the parade ground," Mr. Butler said.

At the VOA Cairo Bureau, Gil Butler was watching the parade on television. But finding out for sure whether President Sadat was alive or dead proved to be a more difficult reporting job.

"There were all kinds of stories going around, one that he had survived, that he had been only slightly wounded, others were reporting that he was dead at the scene. And Voice of America - I think this is illustrative of the care that we took and do take with news coverage - and that is we were not the first to report Anwar Sadat was dead. We were not the last, but we were not the first. We waited until we had confirmation from multiple sources," Mr. Butler said.

For a reporter with a big story on his hands, the temptation to report the latest information is huge, even if the information is not confirmed. In Cairo that day, Gil Butler resisted the temptation, knowing that at VOA we like to be first, but we know it's more important to be right.

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to anniversary@voanews.com. Or, send regular mail to Anniversary, VOA News Now, Washington, D.C. 20237, USA.

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