Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Christenson of 'Express-News' Leaving for 5th Embed in Iraq

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Christenson of 'Express-News' Leaving for 5th Embed in Iraq

Article excerpt

Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News, a co-founder of Military Reporters and Editors and a critic of how the Iraq war has been handled, plans to leave for his fifth embedding tour on Tuesday.

Almost four years to the day that he first went to Iraq to be embedded with the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division on March 4, 2003, Christenson and Express-News photographer Nicole Fruge will fly to Kuwait, with plans to embed within less than a week.

Christenson, who turned 50 on Saturday, said he does not know with which unit the journalists will embed first. But plans call for him to write about tours with several units for the Express-News and other newspapers owned by Hearst. He will also write dispatches, as he has for previous embedding assignments, for his Express-News blog at www.mysanantonio.com.

"We will be looking at the attitude troops have about surge, the war and their role in it," Christenson said by phone Monday from Houston, where he is finishing a story. "It is a fascinating time to go there because we have a new strategy."

In a 2005 E&P story, Christenson said he had been affected emotionally by seeing devastation and tragedy in Iraq. Asked about post-traumatic stress at the time, he said, "I think I've had a good deal of it." In the same interview, he stated, "I was some kind of a basket case the last time, and way more nervous. You go through a series of events where your life is in jeopardy and with each one, you get more scared."

Married with no children, Christenson has become one of the industry's chief spokesman about military coverage, as well as treatment of the press by the Department of Defense. A co-founder of MRE, which launched in 2002, he has served as the group's president and has been an outspoken critic of the way the war has been handled.

"My criticism is the implementation of our occupation plans," Christenson said. "I wonder what kind of cohesive plan and policy we had from the very beginning. It has just been done so badly." But he said he goes into this trip with an open mind, hoping to find good news if it is there. "We might find that the sense is better," he said. "But also that some people are worn out. …

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