BAGHDAD, IRAQ — The last time I was in Baghdad, I ran into John McChesney from National Public Radio on my first day. Then I spent a few days in Fallujah with Tom Bowman, the NPR Pentagon correspondent. That was last year.
On Wednesday, I ran into NPR’s Cory Flintoff in the hall at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC).
So, what’s so significant about running into three reporters from NPR? Perhaps you’re under the impression there are a ton of journalists here.
Well, no, there aren’t. The number of news organizations willing to make the investment in producing original front-line coverage of the war is pretty small. That’s part of what motivated me to come here in the first place: Few journalists are reporting from the field as opposed to just going to press briefings in the Green Zone.
While at the CPIC, the central press office for the military in Iraq, I asked a public affairs officer for a breakdown of how many journalists are currently embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq.
As of Wednesday, there were 15, and John Camp and I will bring the number to 17 once we get to Balad.
Here is a breakdown of embedded journalists and their news organizations:
· Five Americans from mainstream media organizations: Time, Newsweek, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
· Four journalists from various nations representing news/photo agencies: United Press International, Associated Press, Agence France Press and World Picture Network.
· One American civilian working for an official military publication.
· Two Italians with mainstream media organizations in Italy.
· Three Americans apparently working on books or other long-term research projects.
Noticeably absent: CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and the Washington Post.
Also noticeably absent: no local or regional news organizations. What John and I are doing, in providing hometown coverage of the Minnesota National Guard, is fairly unusual.
No independent bloggers are currently embedded in Iraq. A small cadre of independent bloggers such as Michael Yon and Bill Roggio have been going to great lengths — often at personal expense — to provide excellent independent coverage of the military in Iraq, but none of them is here at the moment.
It is important to note that there are other journalists from U.S. news organizations here in the Green Zone, providing permanent bureau coverage of events as reported by the military. But that’s a lot different from the sort of embedded reporting we are doing from the field.
There also are numerous brave Iraqi journalists out on the streets working — and dying — for U.S. news organizations. To date, 207 journalists have been killed covering the war in Iraq, and almost all of them have been Iraqis. In contrast, only two journalists have died while embedded with the U.S. military since the start of the Iraq war (one from natural causes).