Troops Question Woodruff Coverage

Pam Hess reports that some troops are steamed over the excessive coverage of the wounding of ABC anchor Bob Woodruff as compared to the hundreds of soldiers who were wounded while receiving far smaller paychecks.

The American media stood up and took notice when an improvised explosive device grievously injured an ABC News crew Sunday. In Iraq, and throughout the military, there is sympathy and concern for anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, but there is also this question: “Why do you think this is such a huge story?” wrote an officer stationed in Baqubah, Iraq, Monday via e-mail. “It’s a bit stunning to us over here how absolutely dominant the story is on every network and front page. I mean, you’d think we lost the entire 1st Marine Division or something. “There’s a lot of grumbling from guys at all ranks about it. That’s a really impolite and impolitic thing to say … but it’s what you would hear over here.”

At least 2,242 troops have died in Iraq since the war’s start, 1,753 of them killed in action. Another 16,000 have been injured, half of them seriously enough to require evacuation from the battlefield. According to the Pentagon, 60 percent of the deaths are the result of IEDs. IEDs have injured more than 9,200 troops, nine times more than gunshots. “The point that is currently being made (is that) that press folks are more important than mere military folks,” a senior military officer told UPI Tuesday.

While the troops’ reaction is understandable, this is really rather easy to explain. First, this is the typical man bites dog versus dog bites man story. Soldiers getting wounded in a war is expected; network news anchors getting wounded in a war is highly unusual. Indeed, I can’t remember the last time it happened. For that matter, Woodruff’s cameraman, who nobody had ever heard of, has also been an afterthought in the coverage.

Further, as Hess notes,

Having a personal connection to someone injured or killed on the battlefield is a relatively rare experience for journalists. Fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. population is part of the military; very few reporters have served. The war is comfortably distant, until a fellow journalist is affected. It could have been me, we think. The full weight of war is hard to comprehend until it happens to you, or someone you know, or someone like you.

[…]

Modern American celebrity culture has certainly magnified the latest incident: Woodruff is recognizable, relatable, respectable. He was selected for his job as co-anchor not just for his undoubted journalistic credentials but also because ABC decided he was the kind of person Americans would want to welcome into their homes every night. His injury, therefore, feels personal to many viewers. “He’s the kind of celebrity we feel we know. That’s the mature of these anchors. But we feel we know these people and we care what happens to them,” Montgomery said.

Quite right. I am a combat veteran and have not seen a single broadcast of ABC News since Woodruff became anchor. Yet, I ran a post on Woodruff’s wounding the instant I read about it. There is simply no doubt that it had news value.

Still, Cori Dauber makes a very good point: Perhaps the media should learn from their coverage of the Woodruff wounding in their treatment of non-celebrities.

[N]ow that this has brought this closer to home for the press, all terrorist propaganda value of these tapes aside, you would think the press would now realize that all that terrorist-provided file footage they’ve got is somebody’s family, somebody’s loved one, getting blown up. So maybe all the networks — although, ironically, by my count ABC is by far the worst offender — could stop stuffing their pieces stemming off the injuries to ABC’s team, particularly the news pieces on the importance of the roadside bomb, with as many separate segments of footage showing an explosion at, on, or under a convoy as possible.

[…]

I will ask again: if footage exists of the attack on the convoy Woodruff and Vogt were in, do you think it will ever see the light of day on American television?

Quite right.

FILED UNDER: Media, Military Affairs, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Fersboo says:

    I don’t know who Bob Woodruff is, but I am disappointed with ABC’s president: how could he allow his employees from going into a war zone without adequate body armor and an up-armored vehicle. Most distressing. He must not care about our reporters. Impeach Him!

  2. legion says:

    Woodruff’s injury got media attention for one reason: he’s famous. From Hess’ own article, 61 journalists have been killed in Iraq since March 03, but since they weren’t terribly well-known, they didn’t get much coverage, even by their own peers.

    Here’s two words that don’t appear in Hess’ story: Pat Tillman.

    Remember him? He would have been “just another KIA” to both the media and the US public, except that he too was famous. How many of those “unhappy” with Woodruff’s coverage were also unhappy with Tillman’s elevation over all the other troops who died that day?

    I’m not happy about the implication that one person’s life is more valuable than another’s just because they were famous, but to be surprised by it in this day and age is quite naive.

  3. M1EK says:

    The ‘news’ in this is that the media now feels they have a way to call bullshit on the claims that Iraq really is getting better and really is getting safer. No need to use a troop casualty and risk a backlash, even though the journalists in Iraq have known for a long time what the truth is.

    Oh, wait. Sorry. They’re all in a conspiracy to hold back the good news. And the flower garlands.

  4. LJD says:

    You’re all totally missing the point (which I made in an earlier post on this subject).

    The difference is the troops are serving an honorable profession, and don’t get to choose their assignments. They weren’t ‘over there’ chasing a scoop, or vying for a Pulitzer.

    While we’re all teary-eyed over Woodruff’s injury, can any one name the 2000+ killed, or the 16000+ wounded?

    There ought to be a biography of the life and sacrifice of each one (with their famiy’s permission, of course). That would keep the journalists busy for a while.

    Fame has nothing to do with it. It more has to do with the MSM worshipping their own kind for their ‘sacrifice’. It absolutely pales in comparison, especially in light of the garbage they continually pump out.

  5. RA says:

    Let us loose 100 “reporters” for every soldier. The terrorists finally hit one of their supporters in the MSM.

  6. The news is that a site like this is now suddenly worried about American Soldiers getting blown up. Shouldn’t you get back to defending the power of the presidential branch? After all, you’ve probably already forgiven the President for his multitude of ever changing excuses given for putting our troops in harms way, what is the value of our troops compared to the value of our President (whom you may recall avoided getting anywhere near battle when he was war age and America was at war) being able to act Manly and talk about Sacrifice. Hmmm, as I recall, the only sacrifice George Bush personally has done for the Iraq war is to force himself to take a large tax break.

    Support the soldiers, take their sacrifices seriously enough to hold their Commander In Chief accountable for his competency. Soldiers are not props and it is not their duty to lay down their lives to avoid making a President look bad for his screw ups in war planning.

  7. Herb says:

    It just figures, someone would get around tp placing the blame on Bush for the twq ABC guys getting wounded in Iraq. (big time patroit)

    In the first place, I don’t know why they were allowed to go along with the military on the mission. The only reason they were there was to set a story, any story, that would degrade our troops, the military and anyone in the Bush administration. These guys should have never been there.

    And, I am sick and tires or ALL other medis sources of expressing their so called sympathy to one of their “wonderful” colleagues who is no different and not as good as a single solder in Iraq who is serving their country.

    The only ones being served by these two guys is themselves and their company who does not give a tinkers damn about our country

  8. DaveD says:

    M1EK might be right. It is possible the media could use this to support their skepticism that Iraq is getting better. I am hoping Woodruff, in contrast when he is up to it, will report on the respect that he has for the danger under which these soldiers operate. Woodruff is not important to the war effort but I give him credit for being out there with the soldiers instead of reporting from some rooftop in the Green Zone with Baghdad as a backdrop. I understand that the body armor Woodruff had on may have helped protect him from worse injury.

  9. Patrick McGuire says:

    I wonder how long it will be before we hear allegations of “fragging” a battlefield reporter.

  10. Don Surber says:

    Childish complaint. Troops have changed, too, from the Ernie Pyle days.

    Conservatives should be ashamed. The guy gets off his duff and goes to the front lines and people complain that his injury was reported as news. I am tired of the Kos-style complaints about reporters who are actually in Iraq. Near as I can tell things are worse today than they were a year ago. Reporters

    How about a prayer or two for Bob Woodruff?

    And the troops

  11. Herb says:

    Hey Surber, get sober

    What make you the expert on conditions in Iraq. Could it be because so called reporters like Woodward told you things are worse.

    Wize up Sober.

  12. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘WoodruffÂ’s injury got media attention for one reason: heÂ’s famous. ‘

    I’m sorry but who is he?

    It’s a shame whoever he is or anyone else gets blowed up but I saw that other idiot from CNN saying the war is a disaster because reporters are getting killed.

    Can you say media circle jerk?

  13. M1EK says:

    ICallMas, you idiot, he’s one of the two people that replaced Peter Jennings as hosts of the ABC nightly newscast.

  14. ICallMasICM says:

    good name calling – a sign of high intelligence. Obviously I know who he is. Put him in some sort of line up and my guess is less than 2% of Americans would recognize him and I certainly wouldn’t be one of them. Maybe he’s ‘famous’ to losers who watch network news or celebrity idolitors but I’d rank the importance of his injuries well below that of any soldiers and deserving of less attention.

  15. legion says:

    IÂ’m sorry but who is he?

    Obviously I know who he is.

    Obviously, ICM has ahard time keeping his posts straight… and by the way,

    but IÂ’d rank the importance of his injuries well below that of any soldiers and deserving of less attention.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s the point of this entire thread! That his injuries only got as much attention as they have because he’s famous. Jeez.

  16. ICallMasICM says:

    IÂ’m sorry but who is he?

    Obviously I know who he is.

    I guess I need the emoticons for the hyperbole impaired.