CBS crew deaths lead to reassessment of war coverage

The explosion in Iraq last week that killed a CBS camera and sound operator and left a news correspondent seriously wounded is causing network news operations to reexamine their war coverage, the New York Times reported.

The incident, the newspaper reported, has deepened concerns among television network executives about the risks their video crews face trying to cover the Iraq war. The story, the executives conceded, has become almost impossible to cover comprehensively because of safety restrictions.

Kimberly Dozier, a CBS reporter, was seriously wounded, while her cameraman, Paul Douglas, and his sound operator, James Brolan, both from Britain, were killed in the bombing.

Some executives argued that the risks are even greater for television personnel because of the equipment they must carry - including cameras that are sometimes mistaken for weapons - and how visible they must be to convey the story, the Times reported.

Dozier and her crew, while working on a story about the job American soldiers were doing on Memorial Day, had to get out of their armored vehicle to shoot video in the street, leaving them exposed to the car bomb.

“Camera crews are very much more easy to target,” Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, told the Times.

The network executives acknowledged that the millions of dollars spent covering Iraq and the increasing risks to personnel have led to almost daily reassessments of their coverage.

“It is as difficult a story to cover as I have ever seen,” Paul Slavin, the senior vice president for worldwide coverage at ABC News, told the Times.

“Is what we're getting worth the risk?” asked Chris Cramer, the managing director of CNN International. “I think it's a fair question. On balance, I believe it is.”

Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, told the Times: “I think the quality of the coverage in Iraq has by and large been extremely worthy.”

While many international news organizations have already decided the risks in Baghdad are no longer worth it, the American networks remain there, with staffs of 30 people or more.

“I respect the decision of many news organizations to pull out,” Cramer said. “In some ways we are just hanging on by our fingertips, but we have to keep hanging on. The stakes are very, very high on this story.”