Journalists have been criticized a lot lately, sometimes justly, as in Dan Rather’s 2004 “Memogate” report that used a falsified document on President Bush’s military service. But journalists still are the men and women on the front lines of wars, riots and disasters, bringing the news to us. Sometimes journalists are hurt or killed.
ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt are being treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for serious wounds they suffered when a roadside bomb exploded Sunday near an Iraqi military vehicle in which the newsmen were riding north of Baghdad. (Christian Science Monitor writer Jill Carroll remained the hostage of an Iraqi terrorist group.)
The ABC newsmen are in a long line of journalists who have been killed or wounded in wars, perhaps none better known than the great war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was killed in World War II. And more recently, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was gruesomely murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002.
A Jan. 23 report by the International Federation of Journalists found that 150 journalists were killed worldwide in 2005, the most ever. And according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, from the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 until now, “61 journalists have been killed as the result of a hostile action,” reported Newsday. By contrast, in the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975, 66 journalists were killed.
“Wherever the story was he’s always been the first to volunteer and go there,” ABC News President David Westin said of Woodruff. “He had been to Iraq several times. He was anxious to get back because it had been awhile since he had been there. He wanted to go.”
He wanted to report the news. That’s what journalism, at its best, is about.