To Iraq and Back

1 03 2007

Regretably, I missed Bob Woodruff’s special called To Iraq and Back on Tuesday night when it aired, but caught bits of it and Diane Sawyer’s interview with him the next morning in the gym. It is such a compelling story, that I had to check it out. You can view all or at least most of what aired on the ABC News site.

The Woodruff’s were also interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air on Wednesday 2/28. That conversation and an excerpt from their book In An Instant are available on the Fresh Air site.

I have to say that I cried through most of the video. I was totally unprepared for the emotional power of the story, not just Bob Woodruff’s journey back to life but that of U.S. soldiers with traumatic brain injury, now familiarly becoming known as TBI.

When I first saw the images on the TV, I will admit, I was a little cynical. I thought this was another privileged celebrity capitalizing on his fame and misfortune. After all, I’m sure ABC made sure that Bob Woodruff had the very best medical care that money could buy. But, I was mollified when Bob, early on in his special, acknowleges his fortune. And, I started cheering when he began to tell the stories of soldiers who are not as fortunate.

Finally, someone in the media focusing on the fact that war is hell for those fighting it and for those that have to pick up the pieces of what’s left after the bombs explode. Maybe I’m generalizing, but it does seem like the media has totally abdicated their implied obligation to report the facts…all the facts. Did I miss something somewhere along the way.

I still have memories of gruesome news footage from the Vietnam War and of reporters chronicling the devastation and sorrow of all those affected. I don’t have that from this Iraq War. Maybe this new age of opt-in news isn’t helping.

During the Vietnam War, we watched the evening news every night during dinner, and we didn’t have a choice about what stories we saw. What the network broadcast is what we watched. We depended on the news media to educate us objectively. Whereas in this Internet age, I have much more control over the information I receive. I can choose to view or not view a given story on-line, and I don’t have to watch the 6 pm news at all. If a story looks too unpleasant, I can just ignore it and jump to the the lastest movie buzz or celebrity gossip.

 So what does that mean for us and the media? Maybe the point is that the Internet has made becoming and staying informed on key issues an active rather than a passive process. Perhaps, the burden of education and awareness lies with the individual now rather than the network news media. Is the price of opting out, the obligation to opt in?

Rather than relying on reporters to be asking the tough questions and blaming them for not drawing us a complete picture or mis-representing the facts, each of us now has the responsibility to be the reporter and ask the tough questions. After all, we do have the capability to reach out directly to VIPs and leaders via Web sites, email, blogs, instant messaging and online forums.

So kudos to Bob Woodruff for calling attention to the plight of soldiers returning from war. The American public needed to hear this story from an insider’s view. And, you, my reader, opt in and start asking those questions.

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