June 05, 2007

Not Having What It Takes

Combat journalist J.D. Johannes has decided he doesn't have what it takes to be a New York Times journalist.

Welcome to the club.

I leaned up against the humvee and cried in the parking lot of Fallujah Surgical.

I knew right then I was not cut out for this type of work.

It was even worse a few weeks later on a rainy night in Baghdad...

On Memorial Day a column ran in the NY Times (Not to see the Fallen is no Favor) about the rules for photographing an injured Soldier or Marine.

The author whined about how he had to seek permission from the wounded before using the photo.

The editors obviously thought this column was perfect for Memorial Day.

I disagree. The times I have been around injured Marines I pitched in to help. I ran to get the stretcher. The only photos I have taken of an injured person were of a Soldier treating an Iraqi man for shrapnel wounds. You see the soldier doing his job, but not the face of the Iraqi man.

If I were to be wounded while embeded with Soldiers, Seabees or Marines they would provide medical attention and likely risk their lives to protect me and save my life.

I feel I should reciprocate because these young men and a few women I roll with outside the wire would not stand around snapping photos of me while I bled out--they would do what they do best Save Lives.

I think I might be able to relate.

While I've never seen combat, I've been an inadvertent first responder to an accident while a nominal member of the media. I was working at the university newspaper when a student crossing the street in front of me was hit broadside as she attempted to cross against the light. She cartwheeled through the air and hit the asphalt face first in front of the concrete divider beside me.

I jumped out of my car, and started trying to provide first aid as well as I could, reassuring the injured student as best I could as I directing others to call 911 and check on the condition of the driver. It never occurred to me to try to snap pictures or start composing a story as this student lay on the ground, bleeding from her mouth. The only thought in my head was to do what I could to help a shocked, scared, and injured fellow human being.

If basic humanity has to come second to the job, perhaps I don't have what it takes to be a professional journalist, either.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 5, 2007 08:01 AM


It's a common discussion among journalists that goes back, at least, to the self-immolation of the Buddhist monks in the early years of the Vietnam war.

Do you cover the story or do you do stop to help?

I couldn't keep rolling, which is one reason I'm no longer in the business.

But I tip my hat to those who can. It's a hard job and a necessary one if we're to live in a free country.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 5, 2007 09:22 AM