"The best way to see Iraq is to see it on television. Until ABC's Bob Woodruff was injured yesterday in Baghdad, it seemed safe to assume that the second best way to see it was as a network television correspondent," writes the New Republic's Lawrence F. Kaplan of what its like to be a journalist on a locked-down beat.
It's a vivid account, beginning with his airliner's corkscrew descent into Baghdad, during which he is fighting the urge to find a stewardess and beg to travel with her back to Amman.
He describes the Darwinian order, which helps, but doesn't ensure safety.
Unlike Woodruff, who clearly and boldly reports from the Iraqi street, some visiting television correspondents travel around Baghdad in fleets of armored cars, guarded by Western security details. If they're lucky, print reporters for major newspapers have at their disposal an armored SUV, maybe a chase car. Further down the food chain, magazine writers and stringers routinely opt for beat-up Iraqi cars with armed drivers, which, in theory at least, make for less tempting targets. As Woodruff's plight demonstrates, none of these options guarantee anything. But they all make more sense than winging it--which is what the peace activists, war tourists, and other optimists that one still comes across here tend to do. They also tend to wind up on TV sooner or later. Usually sooner.
One must register at the site to read the whole story. It is worth it if just for the scene of the Sunni sheikh who lives in a verdant Versailles, passing to a U.S. officer a list of detainees he'd like released.
On our own pages, you can read how Inquirer reporters have gotten the job done, from making on-the-fly decisions who to trust, to dying one's hair darker.