Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Katie Couric in Iraq - Part II [W. Thomas Smith Jr.]
Last evening on America in Iraq: The Road Ahead, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, currently on assignment in Iraq, led the segment with hard numbers: How many casualties – combatant and collateral – and taxpayer costs to wage what she contends some Americans might label “a nightmare.”
Tonight – Part II – she leads with, “Four years and counting,” followed by the comments of soldiers expressing the necessity of the American presence, as well as their personal desires to go home.
I’m actually surprised … and pleasantly.
In a world where reporting war and providing frontline analysis is often slanted, skewed, and just plain wrong, Katie is doing it right. Not perfect to be sure: Iraq is simply too difficult, and military operations (both static and rolling) are usually far too complex for observing journalists to fully get their arms around. But either CBS’s producers on this project have real defense-sense, or Katie has made the decision to avoid any preconceptions she may have previously held about the war and instead report life as she sees it in the trenches.
In tonight’s segment – the wee hours of Thursday morning in Baghdad – Katie begins the program with a declaration of “new violence here today.” Though I don’t see the comment as deliberate: “New violence” is actually more real-time perception than hardened opinion or fact. The viewer should understand that there is violence everyday in Iraq, because Iraq is a nation at war. Moreover, much of the violence – even ordinary crime – is traceable to the instigating Jihadists.
Katie then makes the typical civilian-reporting gaffe:
Thirteen Iraqi civilians were killed when a roadside bomb exploded alongside buses used by commuters in a Shiite neighborhood. Three American soldiers were killed when another roadside bomb hit their Humvee. And three more were killed in combat.
… suggesting inaccurately that the three killed by the roadside bomb were not combat casualties.
Katie then flies the Black Hawk routes, strolls the streets, and chats it up with Multi-National Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno: Discussing everything from improving local economics and security issues, to gangs, insurgents, terrorists, to the state of the Iraqi Army, to the ability of ordinary Iraqis to work, play, and survive.
“A significant improvement from last year,” Katie says, adding, Baghdad is a “shell of its former self” and “still a mess.” Granted it is the latter two, but Baghdad is, again, a city at war. And I would argue it is only noticeably “a shell” and “a mess” because it may now be seen through a new sense of security and a real hope of normalcy thanks to U.S.-led coalition forces.
Also tonight, CBS’s chief correspondent in Iraq, Lara Logan (who reported last evening on the British withdrawal from Basra’s city center), described the chilling new armor-piercing hand-grenades being employed by terrorists against U.S. forces.
The overall strength of the series lies in the fact that most of it is just good, solid, J-school 101 reporting: Lots of rich interviews with soldiers – privates, generals, and every rank in between – Iraqi men, women, and, yes, children.
Katie’s segment features a superb sub-segment on Iraqi television news broadcasting, focusing on the Suleimanic courage of a handful of Iraqi journalists – men and women, Sunni and Shiia – who have launched an independent television program, Common Ground, under a real threat of death. They reject extremism. Many of their colleagues have been murdered. And so the handful remaining, and still broadcasting, must be under the constant protection of American forces.
Tomorrow night Katie will be reporting from Syria. We’ll be reviewing right here.
Editor’s note: Please see this note.
09/05 08:45 PMShare