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Reporting in the face of danger

February 8, 2011

What kind of person do you have to be to chase danger and put yourself in front of the line of fire?

Some people might call that person crazy. They might even say that type of person has a “disregard for life.”

I call them journalists or foreign correspondents.

Have you ever tried to interview a reporter or a journalist? They hate it. Reporters hate being part of the story. But, these past few weeks they have become embroiled in what’s going on in Egypt.

While all foreigners were trying to flee, these people were trying to get in. News organizations like The New York Times reported that as peaceful protests in Egypt grew, Mubarak supporters showed up to wreak havoc against journalists and activists alike.

Photo courtesy of AP Images

Khalil Hamra (right), photographer for The Associated Press, was one of the journalists that came in contact with harsh treatment while reporting on the conflict in Egypt.

According to The Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been 140 reported attacks on the media in Egypt.

Many reporters have been detained and their equipment taken away. If not detained, then like Anderson Cooper, they have been ferociously pushed and punched.

“I want to show you some of what happened to our team on the streets as we were on our way to report. And we are showing this not because what happened to us is particularly interesting, cause it’s not in the big picture but it is representative of what happened to a lot of reporters today,” said Anderson Cooper during his AC360 broadcast, while sitting in a darkened room for fear of being discovered.

Cooper, like CBS reporter Katie Couric, is back in the United States after a week of coverage from Egypt. He tweeted on Feb. 5th “It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave #Egypt. CNN continues to have many teams in place. It was a hard decision to leave.”

Despite the courageous effort by these journalists to get the story, media is not an institution trusted by many in the United States.

According to Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions survey no more than 25 percent Americans say they trust the media.

Time and time again, we have seen reporters killed, kidnapped and beaten while doing their job. It’s not just Egypt, it happens everywhere. One of the most dangerous places to report in is along the border between Texas and Mexico where, according to The New York Times, drug cartels have gone to extreme measures to silence newspapers.

Members of the press walk side by side troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes losing their life or their limbs. They were present in Vietnam and even helped change public attitude toward the injustices there. The tragedy of My Lai was uncovered by fierce reporting.

I’ve learned from reporters who have written stories about war. During the fall semester I took a course called War Reporting, taught by foreign correspondent veteran, Doug Struck. He prefaced the class with Jill Carroll’s story of abduction while reporting in Iraq.

On our “march through history,” as Struck called it, every step was met with a tragic story of a journalist tempting fate. I think it was his way of emphasizing the severity of choosing a career as a foreign correspondent. To me, that is one of the highest honors a reporter can attain. I would like to think that I can be as courageous one day.

Hamra, the AP photographer wounded in Egypt, won the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award in 2009. Capa, a photographer of many wars once said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

If you’re interested in the topic, the website for Committee to Protect Journalists keep very good records of reporters killed or harmed in combat.

 

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