People around the world have watched U.S. soldiers in tanks moving through the deserts of Iraq, seen explosions and smoke and images of anti-aircraft fire zipping through the darkened skies of Baghdad.
The embedded journalists, who are bringing the breathtaking and sometimes shocking images and information to the public worldwide, are risking their own lives in the process.
“The risk (of reporting a war) is the most thrilling and most threatening part,” said Rick Sallinger, reporter for KCNC Channel 4 in Denver and a former foreign correspondent for CNN.
Reporters, when reporting from a war zone, are the eyes and ears for the rest of the world.
“I had several close calls (when covering wars),” Sallinger said. “Getting the story is important, but getting out alive is even more important. Unfortunately, too many reporters have not (come home alive).”
The living conditions in war-torn countries are not optimal and reporters are not exempt from that, said Steve Lipsher, a mountain bureau reporter for the Denver Post who covered the conflict in Afghanistan in 2002.
“I remember never getting a good night sleep. I was on pins and needles the whole time,” said Lipsher. “The (living conditions) were awful and I was sick the entire time, the food was rancid and many times guns were pointed at us. That is never a good feeling.”
Journalists who are covering wars are also subjected to lengthy periods where they are disconnected from the world.
“When you’re on the ground, you operate in a vacuum, you have no idea what’s going on except for what’s happening in your immediate area. You can be very isolated from the big picture,” Lipsher said.
In order to bring information about a war to the rest of the world, journalists often become disconnected from their families as well.
“The deprivation was the hard part. I would have no communication for weeks at a time with my family,” said Greg Dobbs, radio talk show host at KNRC in Denver and former correspondent for ABC News.
Dobbs covered many wars overseas, including the first Gulf War.
“You’re sleeping with conditions that are not fun and not comfortable. The entire process is physical discomfort,” Dobbs said.
The information that these reporters supply to the public is essential and that is the important part, he said.
“You have a sense that you’re delivering information to people that they probably ought to have. The most important part was giving Americans the point-of-view of the people who lived in the countries suffering from war,” Dobbs said.
According to Sallinger, the role reporters play is essential to the public’s ability to know what is happening first hand. He thinks that the 24-hour news coverage of the current war in Iraq is a good thing.
“The most favorable aspect of it is it allows the world to see up close exactly what is happening in the war. If the (press was denied this access) than we would have to rely on the Pentagon’s account (of the war) and that is not favorable,” Sallinger said.
Lipsher agrees the access the press is receiving from the Pentagon is an important aspect to doing the job right.
“(American troops in Afghanistan) were difficult to deal with. They were not very friendly and not very helpful in giving us information,” said Lipsher. “I think the (press access in today’s war) is helpful and provides us with more information, and the more information we get the better.”
Andy D’Amico, a junior construction management major, does not like the fact that graphic and up-to-date access is so easily obtainable.
“I think they are showing a face of war that doesn’t need to be shown to the public,” D’Amico said. “People are focusing more on the (explosions and images) than they are on the actual reasons we’re (in Iraq). I just want our troops to come home safely.”
Whether the coverage is needed or not is up for debate, but everybody wants the troops and reporters to come home safely.
“We worry about the safety of our (reporters currently in Iraq) and have told them that no story is worth them getting killed,” said Deborah Goeken, managing editor of the Rocky Mountain News. “We worry and care about them very much.”