Engel’s Reminder of Dangers Reporting Abroad

Although I frequently lament the sad drift of broadcast news, you will see nothing but respect in this space for foreign correspondents.

And as TVNewser has noted in a nifty timeline of some of the deaths and harrowing incidents that have befallen reporters abroad in recent years, it seems as if it’s become increasingly dangerous to put journalists into war zones.

In that context, it’s a great relief to hear NBC’s Richard Engel and his crew have been released after being kidnapped in Syria — a rare happy outcome to one of these stories, given Engel’s account of what transpired.

News organizations have reduced their commitment to international news amid belt-tightening in recent years, but it’s worth remembering — and offering respect — to those who willingly place themselves in harm’s way. As I like to say, although we both broadly fall into the category of “journalist,” about the most dangerous thing I ever do is write a negative review of “Sons of Anarchy.”

For a taste of just how perilous such assignments can be, I’d also recommend the HBO documentary series “Witness,” which focuses on war-zone photographers, providing insight into the crazy cowboy attitude of those who brave these jobs.

While it’s become fashionable to express hostility toward what critics like to call the “mainstream media” — as evidenced by Rush Limbaugh’s ghoulish delight over the detention of journalists in Egypt last year — nobody should be blinded to these sobering realities, or forget the risks these people take.

For a time, Dan Rather (who knows something about international reporting) used to sign off his “CBS Evening News” broadcasts by saying, “Courage.” It seemed silly at the time, but in this context, all I can say is, “And how.”

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