January 30, 2006
The severe head injury suffered by ABC co-anchorman Bob Woodruff in Iraq yesterday was a major shock, but we were probably due for such a shock. By all accounts, he is held in high esteem by his colleagues, and is a great guy all around. This latest roadside bomb attack also reminds us how important the information aspect is in this war. I was surprised to learn that more journalists have died in the war in Iraq than in the entire Vietnam war, even though battlefield deaths have been far lower. The two journalists who died during the initial liberation phase, NBC's David Bloom and The Atlantic Monthly's Michael Kelly were both superb at what they did. Even when journalists report the ugly side of war (such as Abu Ghraib), it still serves the purpose of keeping the American public better informed and therefore in a better position to render an opinion. There are very few "blind patriots" in this war; we went into this conflict with our "eyes wide open."
Prompted by this jarring piece of news, journalistic blogger Joe Gandelman (via Instapundit) writes about the high pressure in his profession to get to THE STORY, often at high risk. Network anchormen have been ridiculed for being pompous and aloof at least as far back as the movie Broadcast News [1987; see imdb.com] (one of my favorites, starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter, and Albert Brooks), which is why ABC executives wanted Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas to be "roving correspondents."... In one of those terrible, fateful coincidences, Howard Kurtz had a feature story on Woodruff and Vargas in yesterday's Washington Post, and their new on-the-scene style of news anchoring.