I am a pacifist. I have never, nor will I ever, believe that war and conflict are the only routes toward the solution of any problem. This, however, is a naïve standpoint. War is inevitable because people are predictable. When I heard Mike Boettcher, a veteran war correspondent, speak about the realities of war, my opinion on the subject was only solidified. Boettcher’s speech last Wednesday was enlightening on the importance of storytelling in the war zone, as well as the severe dangers that accompany this field of journalism. No holds barred, Boettcher described the experiences he had in Iraq and Afghanistan while embedded in those countries for media reports. Anyone could inform me on the subject of war journalism, but Boettcher used personal anecdotes along with pictures and video he shot when he was in the field to truly expand on the intricacies of the subject. War journalism does not just involve flying to a conflict zone, propping a camera on one’s shoulder, and filming footage. A strict schedule is put into place to ensure that the crew is safe during transit, as terrorist groups may be waiting to kidnap – or worse, kill – them at any point along the ride from the airport to the studio abroad. Body armor must be worn in the field, but even that protection does not guarantee total safety.
The hate directed towards media coverage of Middle Eastern conflict is not expressed vocally; it is manifested in the form of bombed hotels and beheaded journalists. The task of relaying unbiased and firsthand accounts of life in the warzone is a highly precarious one, but journalists such as Mike Boettcher feel a strong calling to continue in the field of work nonetheless. Journalists are targeted because the groups terrorizing the Middle East want to be famous. Rather, they desire infamy, and killing a popular broadcaster is the perfect way to get quick and extensive media coverage to spread their message. What are and have been occurring in the Middle East are instances of power grabs by corrupt influencers whose goals do not reflect the views of the general populace. It is the duty of those who are able to tell the stories that matter, such as citizens struggling through wars they did not choose to be a part of. Too much coverage is given to the extremist groups themselves and their horrific acts of violence and plans for governmental control, and not enough time is allocated to telling the stories of the innocent civilians unwillingly involved in these conflicts. In order to prevent further conflict, the media must do its duty and relay an accurate portrayal of war. Too many foreigners have only a rudimentary knowledge of conflicts occurring oceans away, when these same conflicts may soon be brought to their doorstep. War journalists gamble with their lives in order to reveal injustice and spur action.