The Struggles of the War Correspondent

You may have heard that there is a certain kind of breed of journalist who becomes a war correspondent. Maybe they're thrill-seekers to begin with, or maybe the rush of reporting from war zones changes them, but many of them keep returning over and over again to one hotspot after another, putting their lives at risk for the sake of their job. Some of them are wounded, some are even killed. Some, I'm sure, suffer from the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder that soldiers endure. What we don't often hear, though, is those reporters talking candidly about it as something that is perhaps not too healthy.

That's why this segment on the Public Radio Exchange program Howsound is so striking. Kelly McEvers, a terrific NPR reporter based in Baghdad, opened up in a surprising way about her feelings about what she does and the effect it has on those around her:

"I have a problem. I mean that's, you know…Yeah. I like that stuff [war reporting]. It's a problem. I mean, I wouldn't do this if I didn't like doing things that are a little bit, you know, not safe. It's a problem. It's a big problem. My husband's theory is that I do not have a worry gene, or a worry compartment in my brain. He, of course, has it in spades; he has like twice as much worry as anyone I've ever met. I do not, in the moment, I don't have really a certain kind of capacity to think about the worst-case scenario. I don't know. Don't know why. And so when I go and do stuff like that, it's just sort of like, it's not a blind sense that everything is going to work out fine, but it's kind of close to that… I can joke about it, but it's something I've actually considered very deeply in recent months, because things have gotten so out of hand in the Middle East, and two guys who died in Libya, one of them was a really good friend of mine. But you know, I talk to a shrink about it. We have a shrink on retainer that we can use. I call him when I need to. We talk a lot about adrenalin addiction. There is such a thing. You can get really hooked on adrenalin, just like you would on heroin. People who do this kind of stuff for a living, all the time, there's definitely an addictive sort of element to it, which I thought was really fascinating. My family gets really upset. It's a problem."

There are other kinds of people who may have this kind of adrenalin addiction, particularly people who do extreme sports like BASE jumping. But reporters like McEvers put their lives at risk in service of the rest of us, no less than the people in uniform. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 journalists have been killed in the line of duty so far this year; since 1992, the number is 910.

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