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Iraq Colors CBS’ Coverage

Oct 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

CBS News’ wins at this year’s Murrow Awards highlight the journalist’s grit, dedication and persistence behind the year’s best reported stories.
Kimberly Dozier came back from a serious injury while on assignment in Iraq to report “The Way Home,” a powerful piece in which she talks with two women in the military who suffered life-changing war injuries. In “Boots on the Ground,” reporter Lara Logan digs in to the reality of soldiers’ lives in Iraq. Katie Couric’s hard-hitting reporting on “The CBS Evening News” has illuminated breaking news every day. CBS News’ Web site also captured a Murrow Award.
With regard to the newscast award for “Evening News,” CBS News executive producer Rick Kaplan reported, “We’ve been working really hard to be extraordinarily content-driven.
“Especially in politics, where people tend to fall back into tactical reporting, state-by-state, and the latest polls, what we’ve tried to do is dig down and do the issues,” he said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to try to deliver more content, whether it’s Iraq or politics or the environment.
“Katie has an enormous impact on what we’re doing on the air, and she’s always been an extraordinary talent,” he said. “It’s been a tough year for her, the way the press covered her, and this is a congratulations to Katie, acknowledgement of the work of the editorial and technical folks, and it says great things about CBS News and where we’re headed.”
Ms. Logan’s “Boots on the Ground,” which won the award for continuing coverage, was a mission to illustrate and report on what was happening to the military forces in Iraq. “This wasn’t about ideology or strategy,” said Mr. Kaplan. “It was about the reality of our soldiers’ lives. Each piece deals with specific companies and specific missions and describes the surprise, turmoil, risk and bravery that were exhibited by our fighting forces.”
Mr. Kaplan said that, too often, journalists who follow a military unit on a mission extrapolate the events of that mission as a stand-in for the general course of the war at large. “Lara is marvelous at keeping people straight on this,” said Mr. Kaplan. “If you’re having a wonderful day in the field, it doesn’t mean the war is going wonderfully, and vice versa. She’s very aware of the difference between a microcosm and macrocosm and brilliant at making that difference. And she’s fearless.”
Viewers responded strongly to “Boots on the Ground,” said Mr. Kaplan, and their letters and e-mails reflected the belief that CBS News was “getting the true story.”
“[Lara] brings great credibility to what she does,” he said. “We didn’t get any feedback that we were being partisan. She shows and explains everything she experiences, and there are no riddles or mysteries. To me, she never makes it look easy, but she makes it look easier than it was.”
“The Way Home,” which focused on how women in the military grapple with injuries that will affect them the rest of their lives, was the first such intimate look at the issue. Executive producer Rand Morrison said reporter Kimberly Dozier, who was badly injured on assignment in Iraq, in May 2006, was particularly well suited to take on the subject. “To say she related to what she was reporting was understated,” he said.
Yet from Ms. Dozier’s point of view, her injuries pale next to those suffered by West Point officer Dawn Halfaker, the first woman officer to be hit in the war, and servicewoman Juanita Wilson, both of whom had limbs amputated. “I just mentioned my injury and recovery and then moved into their experience,” Ms. Dozier said. “The most important thing was to make them feel comfortable talking about this nightmare. I made a full recovery, so I’m sitting in front of them knowing my life is just about the way it was. And each of these women had lost an arm.” These women’s stories stayed with her, said Ms. Dozier, who added that she learned more about her own recovery from their experiences.
“Everyone recognized it took courage for Kimberly to talk about her own injuries,” said Mr. Morrison. “It was a very personal accounting of a very powerful journey. The women we spoke to were surprisingly candid, and Kimberly is so intense and so self-aware, it was a very impressive thing and inspirational to all of us.”

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