Wednesday :: May 31, 2006

What it takes to be a journalist in Iraq


by eriposte

It takes a lot more courage and determination than I can imagine - certainly a lot more than what it requires to be a blogger. So, it is undoubtedly depressing and sad to see that more journalists have been killed in the course of the ongoing Iraq war than was the case for some of the major wars in the past few decades - WWI, WWII, the Balkans and Kosovo, the Korean War or even the Vietnam War. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 71 journalists (mostly Iraqi/non-US) and 26 support staff have been killed to-date in Iraq (excluding accidental or health-related deaths). That is a truly shocking statistic.

The latest in the casualty list are Paul Douglas and James Brolan from CBS. Laura Rozen wrote a short but noteworthy post about her friend - CBS News reporter Kimberly Dozier - who is battling a critical injury sustained from the explosion that killed her colleagues (Douglas and Brolan). My heartfelt condolences go to the families of Douglas and Brolan. I'm sure TLC readers and editors also share in the prayers for Ms. Dozier and our best wishes go to her for a full and speedy recovery.

Laura writes:

Kimberly comes from a military family, she speaks fluent Arabic and Hebrew, she has lived for years in the Middle East and she lives to tell this story. For all her singlemindedness, she has always been an incredibly sweet and generous and utterly unpretentious person, never spoiled by all the nonsense that goes on in TV news. I don't think anything could have stopped her from going to Iraq and being there to tell this story, her whole personal history and education and career prepared her for being uniquely well placed to do just that.

She also points to this post by Chris Nolan which is worth reading. A snippet (emphasis mine):

My pals on the right like to claim that Iraqi insurgents bomb U.S. targets so those of us here at home will fall for "propaganda" or defeatist tales that give comfort to the enemy. Well, after a couple hours of talking with Kimberly Dozier, I'm not so sure about that. She was not someone anxious to become a martyr. She was savvy, tough and smart. She could sleep anywhere and she could step gracefully over sleeping travel companions - the sort of skills you develop out of habit and courtesy, not out of sloth and selfishness. She was also very clear on a few things about her job and her role as an U.S. newsperson in the Middle East. Among them: the war wasn't going well and, for the most part, the stories Americans were getting via their TV news weren't the whole story. They were telling as simple, easy-to-understand story. And, even then, it wasn't an easy story to tell.

I asked Dozier if she knew Chris Albritton - the Time magazine correspondent who ran his own Iraqi-based web site. Dozier said "no" but was careful to say that TV folks and print folks rarely saw each other. It was, she said, far more dangerous for TV people - with their U.S. press affiliations - to travel around Iraq. They were more constrained, more careful, more at risk, she said because of their equipment, their trucks and the difficulty they had blending in.

Albritton himself has a must-read post, where he uses this opportunity - and the criticism from familiar circles on the reports about the alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians by some rogue U.S. marines - to correct conservative nonsense about journalists in, and reporting from, Iraq (emphasis mine):

This accusation that reporters don’t go out has been dogging the press corps in Baghdad since things got bad, and it’s almost wholly undeserved. Why the hate, brother? Other than the obvious and clumsy White House attack on the media to discredit all news coming out of Iraq as “biased,” I also think it’s because the Washington press corps was so phenomenally bad in the lead-up to the war that people think we’re all the same people. We’re not. I don’t know any Baghdad reporters who were also in the Washington corps before the war. Except for maybe some TV and magazine parachute journalists.

But the fault, dear brutes, lies not just in ourselves, but in the stars of the blogosphere, sites like Daily Kos and Instapundit. Blog culture has created such a distrust of all so-called Mainstream Media that it’s almost heretical to defend “the press” in a blog these days. Well, fire up the coals and burn me at the stake then: I think the journalism coming out of Baghdad has been some of the best the international press corps has produced. Under tremendous difficulties, we have produced some great journalism — like TIME’s Haditha scoop, for instance. No other enemy has been so covered as the Iraqi insurgency; hell, the press in Baghdad understood there was an insurgency before the U.S. military did!

Our military coverage has been, in a word, great. [Knight-Ridder's] Tom Lasseter’s coverage from embeds has been some of the most hard-hitting of the war. He has been ahead of the curve on the sectarianism fury within and between the various security forces — and he did all that reporting while embedded.

We had one major misstep: Abu Ghraib. I’ll cop to that (not personally, of course.) Reporters had been hearing that stuff for weeks and months beforehand, but we just couldn’t believe that Americans were piling naked guys into piles and putting glowsticks up their asses. It just seemed too outrageous. And every reporter in Baghdad has had the experience of hearing an Iraqi blame the “Israeli missile” for what was obviously a suicide bomb. Iraqis do have a tendency to exaggerate.

But we learned after our lesson; we stopped dismissing seemingly wild Iraqi claims out of hand, earning us unending scorn from the right which thinks the press corps is populated by raging lefties who think the U.S. military is a bunch of baby-killers. It’s not. I think most of us thought, initially, that an all-volunteer military with Vietnam behind it would have learned some lessons from My Lai, etc. about the abuse of power. We were all shocked by Abu Ghraib. We’re not shocked now.

Mr. Albritton makes some good points but I would like to point out where he is mistaken - about the fundamental difference between the progressive and the conservative blogosphere which lefty bloggers have often pointed out. I have the highest respect for good journalists - especially those who are willing to put themselves in harms way to get at the truth because that is arguably a reflection of unmatched journalistic integrity, not to mention great personal courage. Cowardly right-wing bloggers ask for journalists to be put in prison for reporting the truth or use hate-filled, fact-free slander or libel of good journalists as a routine blogging technique (Jill Carroll was a recent example) - tactics that are deeply anti-American and reminiscent of totalitarian and communist dictatorships. In contrast, the lefty blogosphere, despite our frequent and more-often-than-not valid criticisms of poor journalism, supports journalists who are willing to do what it takes to report the truth. We have demonstrated that in our support for the quality reporting from various news outlets (esp. Knight-Ridder - that Albritton mentions, some of the good reporting from the Washington Post and the NYT, among others, and even reporters from smaller dailies across the country such as the Toledo Blade). So, Mr. Albritton, with due respect, you are mistaken about this claim:

...it’s almost heretical to defend “the press” in a blog these days...

It's not in the least bit heretical in the lefty blogosphere to defend the media (or "MSM"). We defend the media all the time when they report the facts and stay away from propaganda. On the other side, conservative blogs have a deep hatred for the media even as they relish the propaganda put out by some in the MSM about their Dear Leader. So, be as critical of Markos as you want but please don't confuse Markos and Instapundit's views on the media. Instapundit and his ilk effectively want the media in chains so that they cannot report bad news about Dear Leader. Markos and the lefty blogosphere want the media to be accurate and reformed so that they are not propaganda arms of Government or uncritical agents of Beltway myth propagation. It's as simple as that.

eriposte :: 6:24 AM :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!