In our June 5, 2006, edition, at the top of this page, we began reporting the number of journalists who have died in Iraq since the war began. At that time, as tabulated by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the number was 73. At year's end, it was 92, and that's where it stood last week.
The reaction by Sunni Muslims to the execution of Saddam Hussein last month makes it plain that 2007 will be another dangerous year for reporters covering that war. President Bush's planned “surge” of additional troops signals a change in strategy that could mean more media casualties.
ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt suffered serious shrapnel injuries in a roadside bomb attack last January.
After that incident, a correspondent for another network, also imbedded with the Fourth Infantry, talked of the dangers of war. “Over the past 2½ years,” she wrote, “the danger [has] increased incrementally, with kidnappings, killings and bombings first hitting Iraqis, then U.S. soldiers, then foreign contractors and missionaries and foreign aid workers, before finally hitting us.
“Journalists,” she continued, “face awful, dangerous risks in Iraq, more so than almost anyplace else on earth right now.”
That correspondent was CBS News' Kimberly Dozier. As fate would have it, on May 29, she was seriously wounded by a car bomb that killed the soundman and photographer who worked with her. Her legs were shattered by shrapnel. When she was hit, Dozier was reporting how Memorial Day in the States is just another dangerous day on the job for soldiers in Iraq.
Six painful and frustrating months later, Dozier wrote on CBSnews.com of an ordeal that has changed her life forever. Woodruff and Vogt have also had their lives permanently altered. And they are the lucky ones.
“In the mornings when I wake and fight to work off the stiffness in my legs to stand,” she wrote, “I remember it all too clearly. And then, thank God that I am here to remember it, and wish again my friends were here, too.”
Dozier's partners were two of the 32 reporters killed in Iraq in 2006. The Committee to Protect Journalists says last year was the deadliest on record for journalists' deaths in one nation.
Worldwide, 55 reporters died because of their jobs last year.
Just like firefighters, police officers and soldiers, war correspondents risk injury or death to do their jobs. There is inherent nobility and sacrifice—and patriotism—that do not get enough attention in a world that too often treats journalists as a necessary evil.
Why do journalists assume that risk? CBS News Producer Mimi Spillane put it this way to B&C last June: “Because it is my job and this is a story that has to continue to be told.”
As this nation struggles to come to grips with what to do in Iraq, and how to do it, journalists' jobs are more important than ever. We wish all journalists, soldiers and innocents in Iraq a safe new year.