ABC News' President: Accident Won't Keep Network from Covering Iraq

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 30, 2006, 8:21 AM

Jan. 30, 2006 — -- Covering a war is always a reporter's most dangerous job, but the war in Iraq has been the deadliest ever. Since the United States invaded Iraq three years ago, 79 reporters have been killed compared to 63 during the Vietnam War.

The dangers of war hit home at ABC News on Sunday when "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were injured by an improvised explosive device while traveling with Iraqi forces in Taji, Iraq.

ABC News' President David Westin said the incident did not change the network's goals in Iraq.

"As long as the United States is over there and our men and women are over there and they are in harm's way. What choice do we have but to figure out as best we can how to cover that story?" Westin said. "That's what we do."

Both Woodruff and Vogt remain in serious condition in a U.S. medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany, after undergoing surgery for head injuries at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad. An Iraqi soldier was also seriously injured in the attack.

Westin said Woodruff was aware of the dangers he faced when he returned to the Middle East to cover the Palestinian elections and then stayed to be in Iraq during President Bush's State of the Union address. The speech is expected to be made Tuesday.

"Bob always wanted to go wherever the story was, and he's always been the first to volunteer and the first to go there," Westin said. "He was actually anxious to get back because he hadn't been there in awhile."

Westin said ABC News spent millions of dollars every year on security for employees in Iraq and evaluated the safety of sending reporters on assignment daily.

"We all know that there's substantial risk," Westin said. "It has been a dilemma we struggled with all along because, frankly, we don't get to report as much as we would like in Iraq because of the security."

Westin and "World News Tonight" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas were united in the importance of continuing to cover developments in Iraq.

Vargas, who was last in Iraq at the beginning of December, stressed the importance of assessing whether the Iraqi people were ready to take over their country's security operations.

"That's the big, single issue in Iraq right now," Vargas said. "Bob was covering the story. You can't assess their readiness unless you are traveling with them and observing them do their jobs."