Would I go to Iraq to cover the war?

I’ve thought about that on a number of occasions since the conflict began there. The severe injuries sustained by “World News Tonight” co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt brought that back to mind. According to ABC News, they remain in stable but serious condition following surgery at a U.S. military hospital in Iraq. The two and an Iraqi soldier were seriously injured when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

Oh, back in my early days of reporting when I was full of “vim and vinegar” and still thinking I was invulnerable I might. But I guess the realities that there are people here in the good old U-S of A who would love to do bodily harm to news people and some wouldn’t mind those injuries being more serious has changed my mind. Veterans of the business know it can be a jungle out there in the city you cover. I’ve had a beer bottle come sailing by my head after the videographer and I walked away from a story where a riot almost broke out in one section of Memphis. I walked backward the rest of the way to the car so I could watch the crowd. I’ve had bullet ricochets buzz close enough I could hear them. I haven’t seen it yet (at least I haven’t and I hope not to) where someone with a grudge decides to exact some serious revenge against a reporter. I think it will happen in the not too distant future and that’s a little scary.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say on the NBC show “Hill Street Blues” Hey, let’s be careful out there.” Also, keep Bob Woodruff, Doug Vogt and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

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6 Comments on “Would I go to Iraq to cover the war?”

  1. Spook86 Says:

    The injuries of Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt underscore a couple of lessons about covering any war, including Iraq.

    (1) Always wear your body armor–it doesn’t look very good on TV, but it will save your life. Drudge has a photo of Woodruff without helmet or armor about 30 minutes before the attack occurred. Mr. Woodruff is alive today because he put his protective gear back on.

    (2) Choose your risks carefully. Apparently, Woodruff and Vogt were standing in the hatch of an armored vehicle when it struck the IED, increasing their exposure to the blast and shrapnel. True, you can’t get very good video from inside an armored personnel carrier, but in the hatch, you increase your exposure to snipers, RPGs, IEDs, and all the other hazards of the war.

    BTW, I am not blaming Woodruff and Vogt; I applaud their courage for going to Iraq and venturing outside the Green Zone. But doing that entails risks, and they wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  2. mike Says:

    What amuses me, in a very dark way, is how much coverage these two have received for their injuries versus every American soldier who was killed or injured to date. I guess it does underscore what the media really cares about: itself.

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  4. AMNewsBoy Says:

    I was thinking this morning about that young guy who “ran away” to Iraq a few weeks ago for his “journalism project”… after this incident, I don’t think anybody will be trying that again.

    As for warfare in the urban jungle… while reporters and photogs have to have a certain level of caution, they still have a job to do. I work with a photographer who refuses to shoot about 1/3rd of the things we send him on overnight — because they’re in bad areas (and he’s so late that PD has already left the scene). You can’t use fear as an excuse for not doing your job.

    BTW, it’s good to see you back, Joe…

  5. mike Says:

    Hah! Sure enough, when I logged in just a few minutes ago, the front page story on CNN.com was “Network anchor opens eye, network reports.” Have you ever seen that kind of story about a soldier on CNN?

    I don’t mean to belittle the danger y’all face, which clearly gives you pause. Just the self-absorption.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I’d rather scrape gum off the bottom of soldiers boots eight hours a day… than report from a war zone!
    A few of the stupid and the brave who choose that line of work are self absobed… even fewer do it because they really believe in the public’s right to know. The rest are on orders from their network bosses who whisper catch phrases like “this will make your career!” or “Dan Rather did it, so can you!” The morons in management at the national and local level don’t have a sentilla of concern about their employees safety. Just look at all the stupid live shots during hurricane season! Saying no to putting your life in danger is not an option in today’s TV world. Bob and his photog have learned that lesson the hard way. I wish them both a speedy recovery. I also hope they get back a dose of good old fashion common sense as a result of their head injuries. But I suppose if they want to keep their jobs… “just saying no” the next time the network asks them to head into serious danger… is not an option.
    Let’s all thank Dan Rather for turning journalism into an “extreme sport” reporters have to play, whether they want to or not!


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