Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reporting Iraq Edited by Mike Hoyt and John Palattella (2007, 187 pgs.)

From various vantage points and angles, several journalists share their experiences in covering the war in Iraq. The invasion and the toppling of the statue of Saddam, witnessing the seeds of the insurgency, revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib, challenges in being "embedded" with the troops, time spent with Iraqi families and translators, and accusations of neglecting to report any thing positive are all discussed in these interviews with 44 journalists. Here are a few examples:

Photographer Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of The Guardian:

"Up until this moment (an attack on Haifa street in which about 20 civilians are killed), I was separated from the scenes of car bombs by my lens: it was something else, it was not reality because I see it through this viewfinder, and all you care about is the light, where it's coming in, the composition, the light. So you are separated. But the smell, the smell is always there. But that day, when you are part of the scene, when you are hiding, all these kids behind this building, . . . and you are trying to make yourself flat, and you wish that your height is only two inches so you can go flat to the curb. It was that day when this glass wall that was separating me from the scenes of car bombs shattered."

Andrew Lee Butters, freelance writer:

"I could feel things change in February of 2004, although I was slow to pick up on it somewhat . . . In some ways you feel like a frog, the proverbial frog in boiling water. The changes are so gradual you don't notice it until suddenly things get really bad."

Anne Garrels of NPR:

"I still have nightmares, truth be told; post-traumatic, whatever you wanna call it. It doesn't come in direct ways, it comes in weird ways. After I got home, some kids were celebrating down at the lake just a few hundred yards from here, and they set off fireworks and I found myself curled up, just sobbing."

Yousif Mohamed Basil, translator for Time, on the pressure for journalists to report more "good news":

"As an Iraqi, living inside Iraq, I cannot hear good news, and even if there is good news, you cannot hear it with the noises of explosions and the noises of terrorists and the noises of American military operations. It's very difficult to hear a lot of things. It's very difficult to proactice a lot of rights. It's very difficult to practice freedom. It's very difficult to do a lot of things. So, there's no good news about Iraq. There's no good news at all."

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad - I think this sums up what many of the journalists felt:

"So this debate accusing the media of not conveying the good news is such a --I mean do those people know what we are digging through when we go to Iraq? The effort we put into writing a story, any simple story is enormous. And none of us, I don't know any journalist who accepts taking such a risk just to manipulate the truth or write bad news because you have this hidden agenda. . . And then when there is good news in Iraq, we do write about these things, such as the elections . . . the elections were good news. .. at least for two days."

I often avoid current events; I tend to worry about things I have very little control over, but if it's been put in a book form, I can swallow it a little better for whatever irrational reason. As much as I'd like to hide out in a cave, war has a way of invading any hiding places, and this book gave an enlightening perspective from those who lived right in the midst of it.


  1. I really like your site and your reviews. They never give too much away but give me a good idea what the book is about. This sounds like an interesting book. I feel the same way about current events but it probably would be good for me to read a book like this and find out more. Thanks.

  2. i just joined the tbr challenge, and i thought i'd check out your blog.

    my friend and i just started a book lovers message board, so i thought i'd invite you!!


  3. Butterfly,
    I'm not very good at navigating message boards, but it sounds cool--I'll check it out!