Bob Woodruff, named last month as co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" was been seriously wounded in Iraq Sunday. He and his cameraman were riding with Iraqi forces when their lightly armored truck was struck by a roadside bomb. Both suffered head wounds from shrapnel, and were reported in stable condition after surgery. Woodruff also was hit in his upper body. They have been evacuated to a U.S. Military hospital in Germany.
ABC's White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, said Sunday on the network's "This Morning" show that Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were riding in the hatch of a mechanized vehicle that led a convoy of Iraqi soldiers in Taji. Taji, which is an hour north of Baghdad, is the site of the main base where the coalition forces train the new Iraqi army.
The two were traveling with the Fourth Infantry Division and were assigned to an armored Humvee, but chose to ride with the Iraqi forces instead in a far more vulnerable vehicle. They wore helmets, body armor and eye protection.
"If you're going to cover the Iraqi military forces, you have to be with them," Raddatz said. "You have to see how they live."
Woodruff had solid experience reporting in Iraq, covering the conflict in Baghdad, Najaf, Nassariya and Basra. He was embedded with the First Marine Division, First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion during the initial invasion three years ago.
Vogt, 46, has been with ABC for more than 15 years, and has many years of duty in war zones.
The Inquirer's Gail Shister interviewed Woodruff earlier this month, after he joined Elizabeth Vargas to co-host their initial "World News Tonight" program, replacing the late Peter Jennings. Woodruff told her he did not care that most Americans couldn't pick him out of a lineup.
"Personally, I don't think this job is about how well known you are, said Woodruff, 44. "That's something that just happens. Whether you're well received is another story."
A Howard Kurtz article in Sunday's Washington Post reported this about Woodruff:
Woodruff, for his part, never set out to be a journalist. After growing up in suburban Detroit, he went to the University of Michigan Law School, where roommate Kevin Ruf recalls him as a great rugby and lacrosse player who liked to fish and hunt at his parents' cabin. "He's one of those guys, everything seemed pretty effortless for him," Ruf says.
After practicing law in New York, Woodruff learned Mandarin Chinese and in 1989 moved to Beijing for a teaching post with his new wife, Lee. When the violence erupted at Tiananmen Square, he became a translator and "fixer" for CBS. The couple moved to San Francisco, where Woodruff practiced law for another two years, but shortly after their first child was born, he quit.
"I had tasted something I thought would be so much more fulfilling to me," Woodruff says.
He began reporting in television at a station in Redding, Cal., then moved to Richmond and Phoenix. He joined the network in 1996, and was posted to Washington and London. After the Sept. 11, terror attacks, he spent four months reporting from Pakistan.
He told Shister he wished someone came up a new word for anchor. "It connotes someone staying in one place, like the anchor of a ship. The metaphor doesn't seem appropriate when the ship moves around a lot."
The U.S. has been training Iraqi forces to deter insurgent attacks. It is dangerous for journalists to cover their operations. An ABC story on the network's Web site reports that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the greatest cause of death for members of the U.S. military in Iraq, and account for more than half of the injuries.
After the explosion, the two were flown to the Green Zone in Baghdad, then transferred to a military hospital in Balad, about 20 minutes away.
Steve Capus, the Temple grad who is president of NBC News, extended best wishes to the families of the two journalists. "Journalists working in Iraq face tremendous danger, every single day. And yet, many fine journalists are on the ground as we speak, dedicated to shedding light on the important stories from that region. We're also reminded of the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. Today they are all in our thoughts and prayers."
Media Bistro's TVnewser is following the story.