Accuracy in Media

She’s coming home. CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier is scheduled return to the states. The latest news says she is in stable but critical condition. She is eating solid food. This is all very good news. It seems the American journalist will pull through after the roadside bomb attack last week. In the wake of good following Dozier, it may be lost what happened.

She almost died bringing her country the news, telling America the story.

Her prominence and recovery seem to overshadow the deaths of her two co-workers, CBS cameraman, Paul Douglas and a sound man, James Brolan, both Britons. Wearing protective glasses, flak vests and helmets, the CBS team accompanied troops while doing a Memorial Day story. After exiting their armored Humvee, the bomb went off. It also took the lives of an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter.

The incident bears striking resemblance to the roadside bomb which wounded co-anchor of the ABC News program “World News Tonight,” Bob Woodruff, and his cameraman, Douglas Vogt. The ABC team accompanied a joint United States-Iraqi patrol when they were attacked. Woodruff and Vogt are still recovering from the injuries suffered on Jan. 29.

While the CBS crewmen were the first Western journalists killed as a result of direct hostile fire since 2003, the question still stands. Their deaths raised the total number to more than 70 journalists killed in Iraq in the 38 months since the American-led invasion. It is now easily the deadliest conflict for journalists since World War II. Vietnam only claimed 63 lives.

Adding to those totals are the over 250 foreigners who have been taken captive in the country since the U.S. invasion. This paints a picture of a very dangerous place for the non-combatants relied upon for valuable information.

Shortly after Woodruff and Vogt were injured, their colleagues spoke out about their courage and their sacrifices.

“Wars are not fought on the training ground, nor can they be covered from a TV studio,” Bob Schieffer said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “They are not reality shows, they are reality. Young men and women have to fight them, and correspondents have to cover them if we are to understand what they are about.”

The Pentagon’s embed program sent 600 journalists overseas for the invasion. These men and women brought unprecedented coverage. A complete 180 degree turnaround from Afghanistan, in which, the media received little to no access.

But now, after three years, the numbers are mounting. Robert Fisk, the Middle East reporter for The Independent of London says, what is being practiced now in Iraq is “mouse hole journalism.” They quickly move from one place to another with hopes of not being spotted. They never really feel safe, not even inside of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The CBS crew was only a mile outside of it when the bomb exploded.

Des Moines Register columnist John Carlson has made two trips to Iraq. He returned last fall after spending time back in the States. From the moment he landed, he felt a distinct change between his two visits.

“A car bomb went off right outside while we were in there and I thought, ‘OK. This ain’t 2003 anymore. Things have really changed,'” he said.

IED’s, car bombs and small-arms fire are an everyday occurrence and danger not only for the troops stationed in Iraq, but for the reporters who send their stories home as well. There are courses and groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists set-up to help journalists cope with the danger. But still, even seasoned and experienced correspondents like Dozier and Woodruff are susceptible to the violence thriving inside Iraq.

We must remember that while we may not like what we hear, the people over there are risking their lives to try and sending back the story. In his 1998 book “News is a Verb,” Pete Hamill seems to sum it up well. His words are written for the Vietnam-era journalist, but the same sentiments should apply today.

“They knew that only part of the truth could be discovered in the safe offices in Washington, D.C.; they had to witness the dark truths by getting down in the mud with the grunts. They died because they believed in the fundamental social need for what they did with a pen, a notebook, a typewriter, or a camera. They didn’t die to increase profits for the stockholders. They didn’t die to obtain an invitation to some White House dinner for a social-climbing publisher. They died for us. … They died to bring us the truth.”




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