Saturday, August 27, 2005
BLOGS: Changing the face of war coverage, UC-Berkeley's Grabowitz says
Blogs are permanently changing war coverage, according to Paul Grabowitz, director of the new-media studies program at the University of
California Graduate School of Journalism.
"It's much easier, obviously, for a freelancer to publish information that they've gotten for a story, whether text or photos or whatever," he said. "And it's not like somebody standing on a street corner passing out flyers that they mimeographed of 'My thoughts on the war in Iraq.' The Internet has lent credence ... to people who are independent, being part of the sort of mix of coverage of an event. ... I don't know how far that's going to go," Grabowitz is quoted as saying in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
GRABOWITZ WAS COMMENTING ON THIS STORY:
Last update: August 27, 2005 at 12:59 AM
Blog brings the war home
By Aaron Blake and Rob Hotakainen
Star Tribune Washington Bureau Correspondents
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Army Lt. Col. Michael Erik Kurilla had just been shot three times and his thigh bone had snapped. He kept firing -- and shouting orders at the soldiers behind him.
Kurilla, 39, formerly of Minneapolis, was wounded in a firefight in an alley in Mosul, Iraq, on Aug. 19. On Friday, the battalion commander had surgery and was recuperating at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.
In a sign of how technology is changing the way in which the war is reported, anyone with access to the internet can see the graphic episode that put Kurilla in the hospital.
The entire incident was captured on film by independent photojournalist Michael Yon, an author and blogger. His photographs, published Thursday at michaelyon.blogspot.com/, show Kurilla taking the three bullets from insurgents in
Mosul. His family is expecting him to recover fully. "He's doing good," said Tommy Raye, 42, a brother-in-law from Bogart, Ga. "I mean, that guy's a warrior, dude."
Raye described Kurilla as "extremely bright, on the scary side of the spectrum." He said he was not surprised when he saw the photographs. "There's no surprise when he's out front," Raye said. "That's just who he is. Some guys are born leaders. This guy's a born leader. ... He's smart, tough and compassionate, all rolled into one. He is the guy you're happy is on your side, straight up."
For months, Yon has been documenting the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment -- nicknamed "Deuce-Four" -- that Kurilla commands. Yon casts Kurilla as a tough and heroic figure with a sixth sense about the enemy. He is described as a commander who calls the families of wounded soldiers before the Army does so that loved ones can get a direct account. On the blog, Kurilla is said to be hesitant to allow anyone but soldiers to travel with his unit. But Yon has ingratiated
himself enough to ride along.
In his dramatic account, he recounts how he followed Kurilla, two soldiers and an interpreter as they were searching for three insurgents. They heard gun fire, and Kurilla sprinted toward the shooting.
Here's part of his account:
Kurilla was running when he was shot, but he didn't seem to miss a stride; he did a crazy judo roll and came up shooting BamBamBamBam! Bullets were hitting all around Kurilla. The young 2nd lieutenant and specialist were the only two soldiers near. Neither had real combat experience. [The interpreter] had no weapon. I had a camera. Seconds count.
Kurilla, though dowm [sic] and unable to move, was fighting and firing, yelling at the two young soldiers to get in there; but they hesitated. BamBamBamBam! Once the firefight was over, Kurilla wouldn't quit giving orders. Yon wrote that medics needed extra morphine to subdue him. He had a mangled right leg and gunshot wounds in his other leg and arm.
Kurilla, who's stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., went to Iraq in October. He graduated from West Point in 1988 and is a veteran of the U.S. invasion of Panama, the first Persian Gulf War, and has served in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. He did not want the hospital to release any information regarding his medical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. Raye said that Kurilla's wife wasn't interested in being interviewed but that "she's doing great."
Kurilla, who grew up in Minnesota, has two daughters under the age of 6, Raye said, and his mother still lives in Minnesota. She could not be reached for comment on Friday. Toward the end of Yon's account, he writes about how the men from Kurilla's unit were taking down the Minnesota Vikings flag from his office and having everyone in the unit sign it.
Raye described Kurilla as "a huge Vikings fan," and said former Vikings owner Red McCombs called Kurilla in the hospital to see how he was doing.
Kurilla has been a strong supporter of the war. In remarks at funerals for other soldiers, he has quoted Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare on their thoughts about war. He has also spelled out his own views. "There are 26 million people in Iraq whose freedom we are fighting for, against terrorists and insurgents that want a return to power and oppression, or worse, a state of fundamentalist tyranny," Kurilla said, adding that the United States is fighting "so that these fanatical terrorists do not enter the sacred ground of our country."
And remembering the fallen warriors, he praised the people who make up the military: "Extraordinary men that would sacrifice their own lives for their fellow soldiers. Men who place the needs of others above their own. Men who accomplish every mission for no reason other than they do not want to let down their brother in arms."
As Kurilla's story finds an instant audience on the Internet, Paul Grabowitz, director of the new media studies program at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, says blogs are permanently changing war coverage. "It's much easier, obviously, for a freelancer to publish information that they've gotten for a story, whether text or photos or whatever," he said. "And it's not like somebody standing on a street corner passing out flyers that they mimeographed of 'My thoughts on the war in Iraq.' The Internet has lent credence ... to people who are independent, being part of the sort of mix of coverage of an event. ... I don't know how far that's going to go." In Yon's account, the medium became an extension of the battle, projecting Mosul to the rest of the world in real time.
"This was happening," Yon said, "in seconds."
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