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Former Embed Hopes for 'A Better Year'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Former Embed Hopes for 'A Better Year'

Article excerpt

Reporters love "hanging out" with each other, like doctors, lawyers and cops. When we do such socializing, we have to remind each other to get back out on the streets and "check it out," as my old news daddy editor, Wayne Lee, of the Hutchinson News, put it.

But this was a happy occasion. We were in fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at University of Maryland. In February 2006, it was cold outside, snow on the ground. But we were warm inside, wrapped in the comradeship of the military reporting fraternity.

One of our honored fellows was Naseer Nouri, one of those streetwise correspondents for the Washington Post, a guy who hazarded the bomb-laden streets of Baghdad in search of the story. Naseer, an Iraqi, could venture out. Many -- not all, but many Western correspondents -- spent time trapped in the fortified Green Zone, or ventured out embedded with the military.

One of our fellows at the Knight Center was Jon Stephenson of New Zealand. He was a "unilateral," a gutsy sort who traveled across Iraq without embedding, usually riding on the floor of the back seat of a car, his only protection the trust of his Iraqi friends.

"You keep moving," the New Zealander told us. "You never stay in one place more than a few minutes. The moment you know someone has you identified as a Westerner, you leave."

So, those were a couple of ways to get outside the Green Zone. Be an Arab journalist. Or, trust your Arab friends and take your chances.

One year ago, we were in some ways a class reunion of a class that had never met. The Knight Fellowship consisted of about 30 selected for a week's intensive in all aspects of covering the war, at home and abroad. About a dozen of us had been embeds at one time or another.

That week we heard speakers like Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard Bureau in Washington -- the organization that oversees Guard operations nationally. We listened to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., the maverick whose Vietnam combat experience makes him profoundly pessimistic about any good from the Iraq war.

We commiserated and shared our worry and concern about Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor freelance reporter still held hostage. Our Washington Post colleague, Naseer, confided his optimism that she would be released alive, based on some of his observations of her videotaped captivity. In a war where nobody knew nothin' Naseer had country knowledge and insight that could tell us something. Soon after our fellowship separated, Carroll was released. Along with the world's decent people, we rejoiced. …

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