Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Risking your neck

I've been reading a little bit about journalists over in Iraq and I have to ask myself why they are risking their necks? Or at least why are so many journalists from news organizations big and small literally putting themselves in harm's way? Especially when the anchors in the air conditioned TV studio are going become more famous for a story than the journalist in the field will for the story that had them dodging bullets.

I can understand their competitive nature. I can also understand the idea to "get the story at all costs" on the spur of the moment, but frankly there is no way I could keep my nerve long enough to get the clearance and documents in order to even get on the plane to Iraq. Even then I couldn't promise anyone that I would leave the plane when the door opened.

While I'm not stupid enough to compare myself to the ridiculously brave journalists that have made the trek to the Middle East, I've gotten myself into some situations that in hind sight seem too risky in the grand scheme of things. I've been rewarded by a situation like that but things could have gone all wrong in a variety of ways I don't like to think about.

That being said, I can understand the rush these journalists get from it. I see the photos and video from Iraq and you can see images spanning the spectrum of emotion and powerful images of death and violence. But where there is death and violence there is danger.

I guess what it boils down to for me is that when I've found myself in a hairy situation I tried to look at the risk vs. the reward. But usually in situations I've been in, I was my only competition. I either got the shot or I didn't and if I bailed out I didn't have to worry about seeing the results of my competition beating me out by hanging in the next morning. It would still bother me, but you can't escape the danger in Iraq. Sure there are places that are safer than others, but that's usually because soldiers are serving as safety monitors.

I read on a blog that more journalists have died during this Iraq conflict than all of Vietnam and maybe all other conflicts combined, I don't remember exactly. Either way that's not really hard to believe. With Jill Carroll being held hostage and ABC's Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt being seriously injured in a roadside bomb blast, that's three journalists this week that are in danger or have been injured.

And the thing about this war is that while journalists have always had to worry about getting too close to the bullets and the blasts, they rarely had to worry about becoming hostages.

In reflecting about the situation, its a shame that there are so many journalists over in Iraq trying to better inform us that many of us choose to ignore it. And this is because so many stories come out from that part of the world that the American public will only take so much before they disregard it. In this age of competitive news coverage we seem to hear the same types of stories so many times that more journalists are sent over to find that story that brings back the public eye.

Go deeper, get closer to the action, take more risks and send over more journalists to get that incredible story and image or be ignored.

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