EMBEDDED JOURNALISTS SHARE WAR STORIES WITH SPJ CONVENTION ATENDEES
CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier and the Chicago Tribune's James Janega discussed their experiences as embedded reporters during “Reporting from the Frontlines,” a session at the 2009 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference in Indianapolis.
Chicago Tribune staff reporter James Janega, who recently returned from assignment in Afghanistan with soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, shared with the crowd the difficulties of selling stories that are occurring in the Middle East with his editors and the importance of making a story individual and local.
Dozier, who was critically wounded in 2006 while with the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in Baghdad, spoke about balancing an embedded journalist’s responsibility to the public with the safety of the team and the individual. She expounded on the risk every journalist takes when covering war.
“You never know what’s going to hit you,” Dozier said. “It’s extra dangerous to cover these stories no matter if you’re with a group or not.”
Both journalists discussed methods by which they cover stories; converging media and reporting from the front lines; and, overall, what it is like to report crises from the Middle East. They also agreed that making a story personal is what catches the public’s attention and relays the bigger image of the crisis occurring in the area.
“It’s a balance between the issue and the (one) person,” Janega said. “Pick people who symbolize the issue. Look for a character in the story who will lead to a path into the global significance (of that story).”
Dozier stressed that stories are also affected by how local communities cooperate. Reporting the names and faces of Iraqi or Afghan citizens can endanger their lives and the lives of their families.
“It is difficult to reach people in the community because of the effect it could have on their safety … but (you) fight for the cause to continue covering and to get prominent coverage,” Dozier said.
Janega added that journalists must also “asses risk versus the reward.”
The convention continues until noon on Aug. 30. To learn more about the speakers presenting at the conference, please visit www.spj.org/convention.asp.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.