22 February 2007

To the Other Heroes (BR)
Overdue props for the daunting job of war journalism

ABC News has posted a gallery of some highly moving photos of Bob Woodruff, who was anchor of World News Tonight for less than a month before being brained and nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in January, 2006.

Woodruff has made a remarkable recovery, considering that surgeons had to remove part of his skull in order to allow his brain to swell following the attack. He is even back on the job, and will be hosting "To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports" next Tuesday at 10 on ABC.

Journalists find themselves on the receiving end of a considerable amount of grief for merely doing their jobs. Accusations of injecting politics into stories and selective placement of news items to serve some agenda or another, and, in general, questions about personal patriotism and loyalty are inordinately common. But embedded reporters put themselves in harm's way every day to do a job which stodgy romantics like myself believe is the people's best weapon against unaccountable and tyrannical government.

The Iraq war has been particularly perilous. It has, in fact, been the deadliest conflict for journalists in history. The independent Committee to Protect Journalists counts 93 reporters and 37 media support workers -- drivers, interpreters and other logistical staff -- who have been killed in just under four years of fighting. Compare that to 66 dead in the 20 years of Vietnam (1955-75), and 68 killed in World War II. Granted, there are more news outlets in our day and age and therefore more individuals working as journalists, but the numbers also reflect an erosion of the unspoken pact not to target media personnel in combat.

War correspondents serve in conditions comparable in danger to those faced by military infantry, without means of self-defense and with no expectation of glory and praise for the work they do. Most Americans, if pressed to consider the matter, would likely admit the indispensiblity of their labor, but for the moment, the political environment is noxious and journalists, who bring us inconvenient truths on a daily basis, are an easy target, in both the metaphoric and literal senses. Bob Woodruff's story is a needed reminder of the wartime heroism of people, not just warriors, who stare down death in order to keep the public informed.

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Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Amen! Excellent post.

Then you have those such as Malkin saying the journalists aren't doing their job well enough. Wonder if she would like to say that to Woodruff's face?

Congratulations on the link at C&L. Nice way to begin the weekend, huh?

2/23/2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Wow, I had no idea so many journalists had been killed in Iraq. Or rather, I had no idea so few had been killed in previous wars.

Those statistics are particularly interesting when juxtaposed with our government's own recent contempt for journalists. With Judy Miller jailed for three months and Josh Wolf jailed for six, both longer than any other journalist in history, the government has become overtly hostile to reporters. I wonder if this attitude is translated to the military as well, with journalists seen more as a nuisance and less as someone doing valuable work that should be protected.

2/23/2007 6:25 PM  
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