Iraq, Four Months Later

I was just scrolling through a bunch of the photos I shot while I was in Iraq for New Hampshire Public Radio. It’s a bit crazy to think it has only been four months since I was getting on a C-130 headed for Victory Base in Baghdad, but I’m itching to do something like that again. It was terrifying, didn’t always go right, and it was probably a bigger leap than I intended. There were nights when I wanted nothing more than to be home (especially after I missed my flight), but it was a fantastic experience all the same.

I’m not sure what the future of reporting is, but I know the places where we have to scroll through pictures to remind ourselves we were there are the places that likely need another set of eyes. I’ve been watching the latest iterations of the Arab spring thinking that’s impossibly fertile ground for stories, ground far to threatening to just dive into. But that is where the stories are.

I’ve been covering a murder case for several weeks now. The experience has been revealing for me. Watching roving reporters elbow each other out of the way for details that they’ll all get eventually illuminates exactly why people look down on the profession. The best day for me as a reporter in this story was when I found out who the father of Krista Dittmeyer’s child was. The worst was the following day, waiting in a parking lot alongside every other reporter for the official word on the body in the pond.

Show up in Libya right now, and I’m in the parking lot. There will be better financed reporters just itching to broadcast the story, one that is essentially spoon-fed. But somewhere out there is the story no one is paying attention to. It’s in some random place, where everyone else already isn’t. Those are the stories worth telling.

And looking back on Iraq, that has become the story no one tells. It’s crazy that people acknowledge we have 50,000 troops there, but it still isn’t enough to be the national story.

To hell with national, tell the story that needs telling. What that is right now? I’m not sure, but I think it’s time to start digging…

Arrested and Arraigned

Three men — two accused of conspiring to rob Krista Dittmeyer and one accused of killing her — are in jail. The next step in the story that began three weeks ago today is unfolding.

It’s a bit strange to consider this a story, and not a woman’s life, but that’s what it has been to me. And it has been a spectacularly interesting story to watch develop.

The first thing I’ve learned is that I have no interest in being in television news. TV reporters are vultures. Or maybe vulture-sharks. They can smell blood, and they stand in the background while they wait for their chance. When I walked out of the courtroom there was a semicircle of cameras waiting for anyone connected with the case to walk by. The reporters were kneeling down, holding out microphones while the camera operators stood. The reporters shouted questions as people walked by. They literally blocked the exit there were so many of them.

See the video:

I don’t begrudge them their job, but then I think of the newscasts. I’ve seen several errors in reports, and yet there have been no corrections. They just keep rolling on, like a piano player in a band who flubs a note. That’s not the type of journalism I do. I don’t pretend to be perfect, but when I screw up I correct it.

There are other things I’ve learned, like that people will overlook your drug-dealing if you are young, attractive and have a child. Would there be this much controversy if it was a 20-year-old black male who was killed when two people tried to steal his drugs and money? I’ve also learned that many people assume someone is guilty based entirely on what the police say, and not on the evidence. There is no public evidence in the Dittmeyer case, and yet lots of people seem to know these men are guilty. I have no clue what happened, so I’m reserving judgement. Maybe by the end of this we’ll find out.