Reporting War

“I’m looking back at the things I have done with a certain amount of horror,” says Dave Wood, who has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, Russia, China, East Germany, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Bosnia, Panama and Haiti.

“I never particularly prepared,” says Wood, now a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. “I learned things by making stupid mistakes along the way. If I am any example, this kind of thing is badly needed. I could have used it a long time ago.”

Bill Gentile defines his life today in large part through the prism of his photo coverage of conflict in Latin America during the 1970s and ‘80s.

“That will never go away, and I don’t want it to go away,” says Gentile, who was a photographer for UPI and Newsweek at the time and later worked as an independent documentary filmmaker while also teaching at American University in Washington D.C.

Hayne Palmour IV saw himself and journalism in a whole new light after he photographed U.S. Marines through three tours in Iraq and a mission in Somalia. He worked for North County Times in San Diego County, Calif.

“Our war reporting experience has become our identity ... It changed us forever,” Palmour says of himself and the other correspondents.

Gentile and Palmour struggled with grief over fallen colleagues and horror over the sheer carnage they saw. But they also grew in wisdom about human nature, world affairs and their own reservoirs of strength.

The critical question is whether the positive can outweigh the negative and better equip a correspondent to grow in new directions.