WASHINGTON — A subdued TV news biz reeled with shock Sunday over the death of NBC correspondent David Bloom, the second prominent journalist to die within only a few days while embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.
Bloom, 39, collapsed suddenly and died of an apparent pulmonary embolism 25 miles south of Baghdad. On Thursday night, Atlantic Monthly at-large editor and Washington Post syndicated columnist Michael Kelly, 46, died in a Humvee accident, also just south of the Iraqi capital.
Both journalists were embedded on the frontlines with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
While neither death was the direct result of combat, there are sure to be questions raised in the coming days about the Pentagon’s unprecedented program placing more 600 journalists with U.S. and other coalition forces.
News nets say they have no immediate plans to pull their correspondents out of Iraq, and that they were never under any illusion that covering the war was risk-free. Indeed, some network reporters actually have begun returning to Baghdad, including CBS’ Lara Logan.
The New Yorker magazine media critic Ken Auletta, who knew Michael Kelly, still lauded the embed program for its immediacy and direct access to the troops.
“It allows journalists to see soldiers as they are…not as a stereotype, not from 30,000 feet up,” Auletta said. “Michael Kelly was no fool. He was right in the forward march of the war and he had no illusions.”
With his matinee-idol good looks and chatty, informative style, Bloom had become one of the war’s media darlings, providing an unprecedented travelogue of an army on the move. His reports appeared throughout the NBC News empire, whether on NBC “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” or on MSNBC.
“David Bloom was an extraordinary man and dedicated journalist; his courage, passion, and unerring devotion to his craft was unparalleled. Over the past few weeks, we marveled as he demonstrated a tireless devotion to this story,” NBC News prexy Neal
“At this incredibly difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family and all of our brave colleagues who remain overseas,” Shapiro said.
Bloom’s death was mourned across the TV news biz, with the normally competitive news nets offering tributes and their condolences.
Back at the Peacock, NBC’s “Dateline” offered a special tribute to Bloom Sunday night, while MSNBC’s Lester Holt hosted a one-hour special on Bloom’s life and career.
Since the spring of 2000, Bloom had been co-anchor of the weekend editions of NBC’s “Today” show. Over the course of his 20-year career, Bloom covered the Clinton White House and other many other top stories.
“In times like these, a journalist’s contribution to his country is measured in terms of illustrious commitment and sacrifice. There was no one more devoted to his calling than David Bloom and for that we are both grateful and humbled,” NBC chair-CEO Bob Wright said.
‘Brilliant and tenacious’
Kelly’s career spanned more than two decades, with bylines and titles at many of the nation’s most influential newspapers and magazines, such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, the New Republic and the Washington Post. He had spent the last few years revamping the Atlantic.
While a beloved member of the Washington press corps, Kelly was often the odd man out in terms of his political leanings.
Kelly criticized former President Bill Clinton relentlessly in his columns. He later turned his pen on Al Gore and, recently, had tended to support President Bush, defending his decision to go to war against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
In returning to Iraq, Kelly had come full circle. It was his coverage of the first Iraqi war that had launched him into prominence.
“Michael Kelly was a brilliant reporter and editor. No one covered the first Gulf War with the same tenacity and sense of witness, and his contributions everywhere he went — the New Yorker, the New York Times, the New Republic and the Atlantic Monthly — were enormous. I’ll miss him in every way,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick.
BBC cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed by a land mine as he climbed out of a car in the northern town of Kifri last week. Australian cameraman Paul Moran, was killed in the north last month by a car bomb Kurdish officials blamed on the militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam.
Terry Lloyd, a reporter with Britain’s Independent Television News, was killed after coming under fire on the way to Basra in the south. Two of his crew are still missing.
Britain’s Channel 4 TV reporter Gaby Rado was found dead at an Iraqi hotel, but his employers said the death appeared to be unconnected to combat.
(Nicole LaPorte in New York and Reuters contributed to this report.)