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War Journos Under Fire

David Axe's Salon.com article on the increasingly rotten situation for the Baghdad press corps is now up. Go check it out: You'll dig the juicy quotes from one of America's leading war reporters. Below is a sort of rough sketch of that story -- looser, more opinionated than the finished Salon piece.The abduction of 28-year-old Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll in Baghdad on Jan. 7 has had a profound effect on the city's Western press corps. More so than ever, unembedded media in Baghdad are fortified in a handful of besieged hotels that are under constant surveillance by insurgent groups. Few Western reporters ever leave these hotels, instead relying on local stringers to gather quotes and research stories. And some reporters are finally throwing in the towel, forever abandoning this relentless and unforgiving city.jillcarrollaljazeera.jpgI'm on assignment for Salon.com to report on the worsening security environment in Baghdad and its effect on media coverage of the war. Of the long list of experienced Baghdad correspondents that I've contacted, only three have responded at all to my queries -- and only one has been willing to talk. Off the record, Baghdad journos describe a place where fear and frustration make their jobs almost impossible. Now, their fear and frustration is making my job almost impossible too.U.S. Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson has some sound theories about the insurgents' media strategies. While stressing that he "can't speak for insurgent groups," Col. Johnson says these strategies "boil down to influencing the media environment ... to get attention away from progress."Whether there is much progress in Arab Iraq is certainly debatable, but it's apparent that the increasing inability of media to cover ANYTHING, much less coalition successes, is hurting the war effort. Iraq is a big, complicated problem, and as media flee or hunker down deeper in their hotel fortresses, the Western world's understanding of Iraq can only suffer.There is a workable solution, and it's called embedding. No one protects journos as well as the U.S. and British militaries, but many media refuse to embed because they fear losing their objectivity. This is a valid fear, one even U.S. officers acknowledge, but what's better: slightly biased coverage? Or no coverage at all?THERE'S MORE: Xeni points out this eerily prescient story that Carroll wrote for the American Journalism Review last year.

The sense that I could do more good in the Middle East than in the U.S. drove me to move to Jordan six months before the war to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began. All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent, so when I was laid off from my reporting assistant job at the Wall Street Journal in August 2002, it seemed the right time to try to make it happen. There was bound to be plenty of parachute journalism once the war started, and I didn't want to be a part of that...It isn't easy to fulfill such a lofty mandate when people are out looking for foreigners to behead. The days are long gone when car bombs and attacks on military convoys were so infrequent we could keep track of the date and place of each one.Iraq became terrifyingly dangerous almost overnight last spring. Everything changed during the U.S. Marines' siege of Fallujah the first week of April 2004 and the simultaneous Shiite uprising led by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It wasn't safe for foreigners to walk the streets, and car bombs became an almost daily occurrence.The anger and violence have only gotten worse since then, and a new terror has been added: kidnapping.
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