Reporting From a War Zone

Jan. 29, 2006 — -- The attack on the Iraqi convoy carrying "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt was a reminder of the dangers all journalists face in a war zone.

Elizabeth Vargas anchored "World News Tonight Sunday" this evening. Below is her closing note, which aired at the end of this evening's broadcast:

"Finally tonight, another note about my co-anchor and good friends Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt -- two of the very best in this business. Bob and Doug were in Iraq doing what reporters do, trying to find out what's happening there up close and firsthand. All of us are mindful of the risks and the dangers.

"Bob and Doug always take care to balance those risks with the need to report the story. We are all very concerned about our friends tonight and their wives and their children.

"And we are reminded once again in a very personal way, of what so many families of American servicemen and women endure so often when they receive news of their loved one being hurt. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families as well."

'You're Never Safe'

Dozens of journalists have been injured, killed or kidnapped since the U.S.-led coalition's conflict in Iraq began in March 2003. The most prominent was a close friend of Woodruff, David Bloom of NBC. Bloom died from an apparent blood clot while covering the war in April 2003.

Here are some reflections from other reporters -- friends and colleagues on Woodruff and Vogt -- on the dangers of covering Iraq and why they keep returning to the war zone:

ABC News' Jim Sciutto: "[Vogt has] a fantastic eye. … He's won so many awards for ABC. But also, like Bob, he's a true gentleman -- so easygoing in the field, even under the worst of circumstances. He's had a number of close calls in his life, going back to when ABC producer David Kaplan was shot and killed in Bosnia. Doug Vogt was sitting next to him. … [Doug Vogt's been] covering Somalia, Iraq, many times with me. And he keeps going back. It doesn't mean that he's dumb or overly brave. He certainly takes precautions. But he's also someone who's willing to go into the hard spots even at the toughest times."

ABC News' David Wright in Baghdad: "This is a very dangerous place. And this is the kind of thing that everyone who comes here simply dreads -- knowing that it could easily happen to them. There's a constant balance here between trying to get the story and trying to ensure safety. It's simply impossible to ensure safety when there are so many insurgents hunting down foreigners wherever they can find them. …

"I think the reason you go is because it's perhaps the most important foreign story concerning Americans that there is right now. With 140,000 U.S. troops engaged here in Iraq in a battle that the U.S. administration has named their biggest priority. It's a story that we have to cover and people like Bob and Doug are truly experienced in covering. The trouble is that you're never safe 100 percent of the time. And they knew that going in. But still, very much, they wanted to be there."

'Particularly Dangerous'

ABC News' Aaron Katersky, who just finished a five-week stint in Iraq: "Taji is just north of Baghdad and it's considered a particularly dangerous place because it had been the site of a munitions dump when Saddam Hussein was in power. The fear is that a lot of what was there ended up in the hands of insurgents. But three years after the war began there is really no place in Iraq that is 100 percent secure. It is still very much a war zone. No vehicle in Iraq is truly safe to ride in, but Iraqi military vehicles seem particularly dangerous. They often lack armor and other protective equipment. But if you're going to get any real sense of what the Iraqi or American militaries are doing, you have to travel with the troops … and experience what they're experiencing. …

"When you ride with the military you wear the same protective gear a soldier wears -- Kevlar helmet and body armor. But there is nothing that can fully safeguard anyone in a war zone that is Iraq. Roadside bombs like the one that hit the vehicle Bob and Doug were riding in can go off at anytime, anywhere with no warning. There is no special protection for journalists who travel with the American or Iraqi military. Journalists wear the same Kevlar helmets and protective vests the troops wear but parts of the body are always exposed. You feel relatively secure in American Humvees that have proper armor, combat locks and a gunner always on lookout. Iraqi military vehicles do not always have similar protection."

'Middle of World Events'

CBS News anchor and former Woodruff colleague, Bob Schieffer: "Bob is a lawyer who speaks Chinese. He got his first taste of news working as a translator for Dan Rather and the CBS News team during the Tiananmen Square crisis in Beijing. He said later that when he realized there was a job that existed in this world where he could be in the middle of world events and actually get paid for it, he decided to change careers."