Vietnam War freelance combat photographer Dickie Chapelle once said, “the first rule for a war correspondent is, you must live to get out and tell the story.” Ironically, she died in a rice field near Chu Lai, South Vietnam in 1965.This past week, the close community of military journalists are mourning the loss of four who did not get out to tell their next story; they are Anthony Shadid of the New York Times, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London, Remi Ochlik a freelance photojournalist and Rami al-Sayed, a citizen videographer.
Shadid was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent who died Feb. 16 at the age of 43 of an apparent asthma attack. He was returning by horseback through Turkey after covering the ongoing uprising in Syria.
Al-Sayed was killed by shrapnel on Tuesday in a Syrian bombardment while covering rebels in the city of Homs, Syria.Combat journalists learned their colleagues Colvin and Ochilk were deliberately targeted by Syrian gunners today who rained down an artillery barrage on a makeshift media hut Colvin and Ochlik were reporting from in Homs.
At least three other journalists working in the press center also were wounded in the shelling. Paul Conroy, a London Times photographer, and Edith Bouvier, a reporter for French newspaper, Le Figaro, were being treated for leg wounds, news reports said. Photographer William Daniels of the Times was slightly injured, according to news reports.Colvin, 55, an American reporter wore an eye-patch because of injuries received while covering the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2001. During her professional career, Colvin also covered the Middle East Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. She was the first reporter to interview Moammar Gadhafi after the U.S. Navy’s air strike on Libya in 1986.
Ochlik, 29, a French photographer began with the coverage of the Haitian riots in 2001, and then returning to photograph the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake in that country in 2010. He also covered the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His best known images were made last year when covering the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. His photographs appeared in Esquire, Le Figaro, Paris Match and others.
Citizen videographer Al-Sayed’s videos were streamed live to news organizations’ websites from the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amro. He was 27 at the time of his death.“Our colleagues, Marie Colvin, Rémi Ochlik, and Rami al-Sayed, gave their lives to report a story of grave importance, a story the Syrian government has sought to choke off from rest of the world,” Committee to Protect Journalists’ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney, stated. “The deaths of these local and international journalists illustrate the escalating dangers to independent journalists working in Syria and the unacceptable price our colleagues are being forced to pay.”
Being a military reporter has its risks which I’ve outlined in my book “Military Reporters Stylebook and Reference Guide.” And the public should know these journalists paid with their lives to bring no-spin real news.
When you look at the photos, read the stories or watch the news on a screen of war zones, military journalists brought those to you – not a PR flack, not some politician or a government with an agenda, not some ad agency. It was brought to you by ordinary people who, somehow are able to overcome their fears, and tell you what’s going on while bullets fly past. They do it with a pen, a microphone, a camera and without a rifle.
In 2011, 46 journalists were killed while covering a conflict. A few of them you may have heard of, most notably photographer Chris Hondros. But the others — unknown to most Americans, and mourned only by family and close friends, are among the 906 killed since 1992.
While newspapers around the country downsize their reporting and editing staffs, and what little space is left is filled with fluff local pieces, remember that somewhere a reporter is trying to give you a bigger picture of the world, and sometimes dies doing so.
So take a moment and buy a paper tomorrow. Spend a few minutes reading the bylines and stories written by the people who brought you that day’s news – they thought it was important for you to see. I know those who died would appreciate it — if only for the day.