Dispatches from the Front
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A sense of safety, of course, can evolve as a conflict progresses. When Healy was in Iraq immediately following the fall of Baghdad, there was a relative peace. "We went to Fallujah for lunch," he recalls of the city that has since hosted several violent conflicts between insurgents and U.S. forces.
Indeed, as the U.S. presence in Iraq enters its fifth year, the region is far more dangerous to cover than it was at the time of the fall of Baghdad. As the danger increases, so does the price of reporting from the region. According to Baschuk, it can cost at least $2,500 per day for a driver, car, translator and security. For him, simply returning from Iraq in one piece was a "privilege."
"As I say to friends, everyone should go to war," Baschuk says half-jokingly. "You really can value what's important—friends, family, relationships, life itself. I really learned to shed all the small things."
The dangers of war reporting hit home for Healy in May 2003, in the middle of his second wartime assignment in Iraq, when his Globe colleague and roommate there, experienced war reporter Elizabeth Neuffer, died in a car accident while on assignment in Samarra. Upon hearing about Neuffer's accident, he and a translator traveled to Samarra to find out what happened.
For Healy, the incident brought to the fore another key component of reporting from a war zone: looking out not just for yourself, but for your fellow reporters.
"Elizabeth taught me about being part of a team and putting the team and story ahead of your ego," says Healy. "Going to try to find her, part of it was personal but part of it was what you do for your team."
Like the soldiers they cover, war correspondents struggle with the personal toll of war. Healy's loss of his colleague is one example of the personal toll that war correspondents face. They are witness to many of the same incidents that scar battle-hardened soldiers for life. As Healy puts it, "your coping skills go into overdrive."
Healy recalls being deeply affected by a story he wrote about torture victims, mostly artists and actors, who had returned to Iraq from exile. "It packs a wallop on you, but the way to honor the emotion of the situation is to tell their story."
While emotions can be used as a motivator to produce good work, reporters must also strike a balance between feelings and coverage.
"I'm not being a good journalist or a good photographer and I'm not being helpful to the person I'm photographing if I'm not functioning because I'm upset," says Silberberg, who spent a month covering an Iraqi emergency room where there was a constant influx of wounded civilians and soldiers. "It didn't bother me because I was taking pictures. I had a job to do. Just to loiter there and watch, I would have been sick to my stomach."
'I just had a drive to go in'
It's reasonable to ask why someone would want to put their life at risk, day in and day out, for 600 words in the newspaper or 60 seconds on the evening news. For the Tufts graduates who have chosen this path, it's a desire to learn about the world around them.
"Covering Sept. 11 in New York had a really big impact on me," recalls Healy, whose volunteer trips to Afghanistan and Iraq have been his only war reporting forays. "I wanted to continue on the story in some form. I wanted to see that part of the world, try to understand what we were doing over there."
Adrian Baschuk (A'02) reporting for Current from Iraq on Election Day, Dec. 2005.
For Baschuk, who majored in international relations and minored in communications at Tufts, reporting as an international correspondent is a goal he's been building toward for years.
"I always had a natural curiosity and desire to see and witness these events firsthand," says Baschuk, who has reported on conflicts in Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as in North Korea, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Egypt and Jordan. "I'd always seen it from such a detached perspective on the news. I've wanted to be able to report on a much more personal sense for our generation."
While he admits that his entry into the realm of war reporting did not come without some doubt and fear, the fulfillment of his lifelong dream propelled him forward.
"I just had a drive to go in, and once in country or in combat, it's all about the work," he says. "It doesn't become so much about you, but about living the experience."
Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications
Homepage photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Jonathan Santiago takes off his helmet on top of his Amphibious Assault Vehicle after a patrol in Karabilah, Iraq, seven miles from Syria, on Dec. 1, 2005. (Jacob Silberberg (A'02) / Associated Press)
Other photos: Additional Iraq photo by Jacob Silberberg (A'02), Associated Press; Current screen images courtesy of Adrian Baschuk; Murrow photo from Tufts Digital Collections and Archives; Paul Joseph photo by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo; Crocker Snow photo by Melody Ko, Tufts University Photo
This story originally ran on Apr. 9, 2007.