Judith Matloff

Female War Reporters Hide Sexual Abuse To Continue Getting Assignments

The photographer was a seasoned operator in South Asia. So when she set forth on an assignment in India, she knew how to guard against gropers: dress modestly in jeans secured with a thick belt and take along a male companion. All those preparations failed, however, when an unruly crowd surged and swept away her colleague. She was pushed into a ditch, where several men set upon her, tearing at her clothes and baying for sex. They ripped the buttons off her shirt and set to work on her trousers.

"My first thought was my cameras," recalls the photographer, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then it was, 'Oh my God, I'm going to be raped.' " With her faced pressed into the soil, she couldn't shout for help, and no one would have heard her anyway above the mob's taunts. Suddenly a Good Samaritan in the crowd pulled the photographer by the camera straps several yards to the feet of some policemen who had been watching the scene without intervening. They sneered at her exposed chest but escorted her to safety.
Alone in her hotel room that night, the photographer recalls, she cried, thinking, "What a bloody way to make a living." She didn't inform her editors, however. "I put myself out there equal to the boys. I didn't want to be seen in any way as weaker."

Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys -- sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don't tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where Western women are viewed as promiscuous. War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job. Often they are drunk. But female journalists tend to grit their teeth and keep on working, unless it gets worse.

Because of the secrecy around sexual assaults, it's hard to judge their frequency. Yet I know of a dozen such assaults, including one suffered by a man. Eight of the cases involve forced intercourse, mostly in combat zones. The perpetrators included hotel employees, support staff, colleagues and the very people who are paid to guarantee safety -- policemen and security guards. None of the victims want to be named. For many women, going public can cause further distress. In the words of an American correspondent who awoke in her Baghdad compound to find her security guard's head in her lap, "I don't want it out there, for people to look at me and think, 'Hmmm. This guy did that to her, yuck.' I don't want to be viewed in my worst vulnerability."

The only attempt to quantify this problem has been a slim survey of female war reporters published two years ago by the International News Safety Institute, based in Brussels. Of the 29 respondents who took part, more than half reported sexual harassment on the job. Two said they had experienced sexual abuse. But even when the abuse is rape, few correspondents tell anyone, even friends. The shame runs so deep, and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking budgets, is so strong that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom.

Rodney Pinder, the director of the institute, was struck by how some senior newswomen he approached after the 2005 survey were reluctant to take a stand on rape. "The feedback I got was mainly that women didn't want to be seen as 'special' cases for fear that (a) it affected gender equality and (b) it hindered them getting assignments," he says.

Caroline Neil, who has done safety training with major networks over the past decade, agrees. "The subject has been swept under the carpet. It's something people don't like to talk about."

In the cases that I know of, the journalists did nothing to provoke the attacks; they behaved with utmost propriety, except perhaps for one bikini-clad woman who was raped by a hotel employee while sunbathing on the roof in a conservative Middle Eastern country. The correspondent who was molested by her Iraqi security guard is still puzzling over the fact that he brazenly crept into her room while colleagues slept nearby. "You do everything right, and then something like this happens," she says. "I never wore tight T-shirts or outrageous clothes. But he knew I didn't have a tribe that would go after him."

That guard lost his job, but such punishment is rare. A more typical case is of an award-winning British correspondent who was raped by her translator in Africa. Reporting him to a police force known for committing atrocities seemed like a futile exercise.

Like most foreign correspondents who were assaulted, those women were targets of opportunity. The predators took advantage because they could. Local journalists face the added risk of politically motivated attacks. The Committee to Protect Journalists, for example, cites rape threats against female reporters in Egypt who were seen as government critics. Rebels raped someone I worked with in Angola for her perceived sympathy for the ruling party. In one notorious case in Colombia in 2000, the reporter Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and gang-raped in what she took as reprisal for her newspaper's suggestion that a paramilitary group ordered some executions. She is the only colleague I know of who has gone on the record about her rape.

The general reluctance to call attention to the problem creates a vicious cycle whereby editors, who are still typically men, are unaware of the dangers because women don't bring them up. Survivors of attacks often suffer in lonely silence, robbed of the usual camaraderie that occurs when people are shot or kidnapped. It was an open secret in our Moscow press corps in the 1990s that a young freelancer had been gang-raped by policemen. But given the sexual nature of her injury, no one but the woman's intimates dared extend sympathies.

Even close calls frequently go unmentioned. In my own case, I never reported to my foreign editor a narrow escape at an airport in Angola in 1995. Two drunken policemen pointing AK-47's threatened to march a colleague and me into a shack for "some fun." We got away untouched, so why bring up the matter? I didn't want my boss to think that my gender was a liability.

Such lack of public discussion might explain why, amazingly, there are no sections on sexual harassment and assault in the leading handbooks on journalistic safety by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists. When one considers the level of detail over protections against other eventualities -- get vaccinations, pack dummy wallets, etc. -- the oversight is staggering. No one tells women that deodorant can work as well as mace when sprayed in the eyes, for example, or that you can obtain doorknob alarms, or that, in some cultures, you can ward off rapists by claiming to menstruate.

For women seeking security tips, hostile-environment training is the way to go. Yet those short courses also rarely touch upon rape prevention. The BBC, a pioneer in trauma awareness, is the only major news organization that offers special safety instruction for women, taught by women.

Most women recognize that even the most thorough preparation cannot prevent every eventuality. Yet victims of assault say that some training might have helped them make more informed decisions, or at least live with the outcome more easily. A correspondent for a major U.S. newspaper says that for some time she needlessly blamed herself for her rape by a Russian paramilitary policeman. How, she asked herself, had she not anticipated that he would follow her back to the hotel after an interview and force himself into the room? She believes that training "would have relieved me of the guilt that I had done the wrong thing."

Reprinted from Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2007. © 2007 by Columbia Journalism Review.

What About the Journalists?

Weekends spent alone at home, drinking to the point of unconsciousness. Romances that always seem to crumble after a couple of months. Feeling too paranoid to go to a movie or too agitated to sleep. This is a story about the invisible wounds that journalists often suffer when covering war. Anyone who has covered violence is aware of the psychic damage it can wreak — the guilt, the sense of being a parasite, the unbearable pettiness of daily life. The tribe of war correspondents is notoriously macho, and to even admit the damage — let alone surrender to it — has always been considered a sign of weakness. We are dispassionate chroniclers, after all, protected by the talisman of the notebook and the camera. The standard practice has been to go forth with a bottle of Scotch, absorb the pain and fear, and never tell your editors.

This denial has by no means disappeared, but the collective trauma of September 11 ushered post-traumatic stress disorder into the national lexicon, and it is beginning to usher therapists into the newsroom as well. The public and the medical community have a better understanding of trauma and its impact than they did just a decade ago, and the growing number of women on the battlefield — with their willingness to share their anguish — has made it easier for male colleagues to open up. With a new wave of emotionally scarred reporters coming out of Iraq (many of them relative rookies), editors are realizing that it will take more than flak jackets and “hostile environment training” to keep correspondents healthy. Among other things, they are introducing confidential hotlines for journalists who need help, and scrutinizing e-mail for signs of distress. “The wall of resistance is just coming down,” says Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist based in Michigan who works with traumatized journalists.

It’s about time.

Greg Marinovich, a freelance photographer, felt a deep sense of impotence as he witnessed a gruesome period of South Africa’s history in the early 1990s, when his daily routine involved taking pictures of people being shot or hacked to death. When he won a Pulitzer in 1991, he found it difficult to celebrate. The winning photos, taken for the AP, were of a mob savagely murdering a man. Marinovich had been unable to save the victim as he was dragged from a train in Soweto by five men who then beat and stoned him and stabbed him in the head before dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire. “I felt shock, repulsion, fear, excitement, dread — always the dread,” he says. “Now, having said that, there is the issue of enjoying, and being excited at, getting good photographs. So all these weird and disturbing thoughts, combined with the fact that we were earning money, added to the guilt — terrific guilt.”

During the same period, one of Marinovich’s best friends, Ken Oosterbroek, also a photographer, was shot dead in a crossfire just yards away from him in Tokoza township. Marinovich took a bullet in the chest in that incident and nearly died. He recovered, went back to work, and later buried two more colleagues who had committed suicide. Marinovich escaped the numbing trap of drugs and alcohol that ensnared many of the journalists he worked with, but he endured terrible spells of depression and, as he puts it, “destroyed some relationships.”

Science suggests that a terrifying experience alters the chemistry in the brain. The amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain that researchers believe is tied to memory, releases cascades of stress hormones such as adrenaline. Such hormones change the way the mind processes information during times of stress, lodging images like snapshots in the memory. This can contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder, when vivid recollections return well after the event, evoking the initial horror. Classic signs include panic attacks, the avoidance of people or reminders of the incident, and flashbacks or nightmares.

These physical reactions compound psychological burdens such as guilt. Extreme stress can spawn other symptoms of distress, from insomnia to depression. Many mental health experts believe journalists should debrief as early as possible after the traumatic experience, so that disturbing thoughts don’t fester. This could be with colleagues at the hotel bar, or a couple of sessions with a therapist. The important thing is to process it. “It’s like carrying around a bowling ball if you don’t deal with it,” says Frank Smyth, the Washington, D.C., representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

He should know. Smyth was tormented by nightmares in 1991 after being held for two weeks in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison when he was covering the Kurdish rebellions that followed the first gulf war. While on assignment for CBS, Smyth drove straight into an ambush. For seventeen hours he hid in a ditch, listening as Iraqi soldiers executed a colleague who had been traveling with him. The soldiers eventually found Smyth and another colleague and locked them in a cellblock. There, Smyth had a prime view of guards torturing prisoners with electroshock and hitting them with wooden boards. Engraved in his memory was a boy named Jaffer, who yelped like a dog while guards beat him with a rubber hose. “He was so young his voice hadn’t yet cracked,” Smyth says.

After his release, Smyth says, going to sleep each night was “like a horror movie,” as the scenes replayed in dreams. Smyth eventually sought counseling and began to receive acupuncture treatments and practice yoga. The nightmares faded.

This does not mean that therapy will cure all. John Laurence, author of The Cat from Hue, a memoir about covering Vietnam for CBS, has sought help on and off since 1966, when he suffered his first combat stress. After Vietnam, Laurence, now sixty-four, covered fifteen more wars. Counseling helped him cope with the psychological costs of his career. He describes his old self as a “mess” — heavy drinking, sleeplessness, paranoia, dependence on tranquilizers. At his lowest points, he says, he would drop to the pavement at sharp noises. He was scared to leave his room, and had terrifying dreams of being trapped in a crashing cargo plane.

Still, he went to Iraq last year (for Esquire and National Public Radio) and the familiar demons of depression scuttled back. “I have never felt cured,” he says.

Photographers are among the most susceptible to PTSD, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2002. Because photographers have to get close to capture their subjects, they must switch off their human instinct to help, and this can cause inner conflict. Mark Brayne, a former BBC correspondent who became a psychotherapist after experiencing his own anguish, hypothesizes that writers often cope better than photographers because they create a narrative. “When it has a beginning, a middle, and an end it can be put to bed,” he says. “But a photographer creates fragmented images, and the brain stores these fragments that cause distress.”

Corinne Dufka dealt with her distress by shutting down emotionally. Dufka, who has won nearly every major photography award for her macabre images of Africa, says she grew so desensitized that she began to lack feeling even for friends. She had an “epiphany” after the U.S. embassy bombing in Nairobi in 1998, when she agonized over missing the story rather than the fate of the victims. Dufka cried days later, when it dawned on her that real people had been blinded (her mother is blind). “I was ashamed about my lack of empathy and sense of humanity,” she recalls.

Soon thereafter, Dufka quit photojournalism to become a human-rights campaigner. (She won a MacArthur “genius” award last year for her activism in Sierra Leone.) These days she only takes snapshots of her five-year-old daughter, Eloise.

Experts note that trauma is often worse when violence is random and people are unprepared for it. In this respect, Iraq presents a dire scenario. There’s no relief from fear in Baghdad; reporters are living among a hostile population and bombs can explode anywhere. And since many reporters dispatched to Iraq have never covered conflict before, they have no practiced responses.

Steve Franklin, who has covered the Middle East for many years for the Chicago Tribune, was “stunned” by the anxiety permeating Baghdad when he was there earlier this year. “People were obsessed with security,” he says. “They had to have walkie-talkies, they sandbagged their houses. But they couldn’t tell the newspaper back home that they were too scared to leave the house.”

Adding to the reporters’ isolation was that many editors seemed ill-prepared to lend emotional support. “We ask people to cover these wars on the fly, but we’re not trained to ask ‘How do you feel now, after you almost got killed today?’” Franklin says. “In the macho environment, we ignore it. We can’t show fear.”

There are warning signs to watch for when a reporter returns from covering combat. A common one is intense loneliness. The journalists often feel they can only relate to colleagues who have been in similar situations. How do you convey to others the guilt of leaving a besieged city, as children pull at your sleeves begging to be saved?

Paul Holmes, one of Reuters’s top war reporters, found it hard to reconnect with his now ex-wife and three children in between stints in Bosnia. He was on edge and would snap at minor things. “You’re expected to reinsert yourself into normal urban existence and it’s extremely stressful for your family,” he explains. “You go home and there’s a problem because the local supermarket runs out of cornflakes and it just doesn’t seem important.”

Plenty of war correspondents still suffer in silence, but a growing number speak out. David Loyn, the BBC’s developing-world correspondent, took six months off conflict reporting after a harrowing time in Kosovo in 1998. He has told his bosses he doesn’t want to go to Iraq for now. He sees no shame in seeking professional help, which he did after witnessing the execution of an Afghan man who allegedly stole a BBC camera. “I was no good to anyone after that,” Loyn recalls. “Very jittery.”

Loyn matter-of-factly describes trauma therapy as a technical process, like vacuuming a carpet: “If an ordinary sentient human being is exposed to a lot of violence, then you need a cleaning.” He’s blessed with receptive employers who are pioneering trauma awareness for the media. Last year, the BBC added trauma instruction to its safety training, and supervisors are being told how to deal with troubled colleagues in the field and after they return. Several stars have “come out” about their experiences to assure more junior people that it’s okay to have stress disorder. Former correspondent Brayne, hired as a consultant, holds regular seminars in London on the topic.

Reuters has followed suit, with managerial training and a telephone helpline. Ironically, for a country where psychotherapy is more widely accepted than in England, American media lag behind. There are a few notable exceptions, though. Chris Cramer, the managing director of CNN International, is one of the press’s loudest advocates for trauma training. Cramer, who suffered paranoia for years after being held hostage in the Iranian embassy in London in 1980, encourages informal debriefings, some of which take place in his office. He will intervene, too, if he feels one of his journalists is not emotionally ready to return to the field. “This kind of a dialogue didn’t happen ten years ago,” Cramer says.

CNN also provides voluntary, confidential counseling to its staff, in person or on the phone. The New York Times offers similar services, and recently consulted with a military psychiatrist about ways to further soothe its correspondents in Iraq. NPR and Hearst Newspapers conducted trauma training sessions earlier this year. Since it opened in 1999, The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at the University of Washington (www.dartcenter.org) has aggressively tried to raise awareness of these issues.

The stigma, though, persists. Journalists who are suffering sometimes fear that they will destroy their careers if they ask for help. The staff at the Dart Center says there has been too little systemic progress in combating trauma within newsrooms. Often the bosses may be on board, but not the assignment editors, for example.

We will know only later how Iraq will affect reporters’ psyches, since often the damage bleeds out over time. For instance, in my own case, I put myself on autopilot when I was in Angola for a particularly rough six months in the early 1990s. I was nervous about a death threat, but distracted myself by working eighteen-hour days. When caught in sniper fire, I assumed a Zen-like state of denial. Landing at an airport that was being shelled, I busied myself with helping the wounded and collecting testimonies.

Months later, after leaving the country, I had disturbing dreams about limbless people whom I couldn’t save. I developed a phobia about roads that reminded me of an ambush. My catharsis came from writing a book about the war, which forced me to confront emotions. And, yes, I consulted a trauma expert.

Mothers at War

Like most mothers, Jennifer Griffin had a checklist when picking a preschool for her daughter in Jerusalem. The Fox News correspondent wanted a disciplined environment. She preferred English-speaking teachers. Most important, she sought a safe location beyond the reach of suicide bombers. Griffin looked at one school that was popular with expatriates, but wasn't pleased that the playground faced the street. She ruled out another where a bomber's head had rolled into the yard. Eventually, she settled on a school whose classrooms seemed securely set back from the road. But then a young man blew himself up nearby. "After that, I lobbied to have an armed guard placed at the entrance," she says. "The parents chip in and pay for him."

Mothers who cover wars go to agonizing lengths to balance child-rearing and work. It's tough enough for any woman to juggle career and babies, but add snipers and kidnappers into the mix and a tricky situation suddenly becomes one of life and death. Female war correspondents readily admit that it goes against all maternal instincts to place the most precious thing in their lives in danger. They find it wrenching to leave their children for weeks while they cover the front lines. But as women swell the ranks of senior correspondents, a growing cadre – nearly all in their forties – are choosing not to relinquish high-profile careers just because they have kids.

War reporting, with its masculine cachet, shatters the ultimate glass ceiling for female correspondents. You prove yourself as tough as the guys. Writing stories that could save lives can be the most compelling experience of a career. Yet the primal tie to a child can present an excruciating pull in the opposite direction. I know this dilemma well. For twenty years I bounced around the world in often nasty places, never questioning if an editor called me at 3:00 a.m. and said, "Get to Rwanda." I spent so many months away from home when I covered forty-seven countries in Africa that the man who is now my husband would have to fly to Angola or Ethiopia for a rendezvous. However, this daredevil lifestyle ended after our son, Anton, was born. When he was just ten days old, I found myself rejecting a prestigious job that would have taken me to Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. I gazed down at Anton, as he slurped tranquilly at my breast, and thought, "I can't abandon this defenseless tiny person. I waited so long to have him. How could I do anything that might leave him motherless?"

In the days of Martha Gellhorn or the Vietnam War, the tiny sorority of female war reporters were generally childless. Those trailblazers often sought to out-macho the men, and giving birth wasn't compatible with their lifestyle. Even a decade ago in Bosnia, Sheila MacVicar (now of CBS News) stood out as the rare mother in the war pack. But that's changed, with more husbands willing to stay at home and an erosion of prejudice against women on battlefields. For this piece, I canvassed nearly a dozen mothers who have covered war for British and American media in places like Burundi, Chechnya, and Iraq. "What happens with all of us is that we were doing this for several years and then we had babies and it's hard to give it up," says Barbara Demick, whose son was an infant when she covered the second Palestinian intifada for the Los Angeles Times . "Just because you're a mother doesn't mean you lose your interests."

Some of these mothers raise families in conflict areas such as Israel. Others spend long months on the road to cover distant wars, and experience the anxieties of separation or possible death. It isn't as if these women don't have other attractive options, such as Paris or Washington. Some feel guilty about their unconventional choice. "Every time I pack my bags for a trip and every time I drive to the airport to fly away from Sylvia [five years old] I feel completely miserable," says Robyn Dixon, the Johannesburg correspondent of the Los Angeles Times . "And every time I step over the threshold of a plane into the hull I feel that shiver of fate, and pray that everything will be okay."

One of the most unbearable incidents occurred last summer, when Sylvia sobbed hysterically at the door, "Don't go! Don't go!" as Dixon left for Iraq. "I was crying too, and I had to just walk away, my heart tearing apart," she says. At the same time, Dixon and others describe a sense of mission that comes with covering war. A few women have grown hooked on the adrenaline rush of danger. Others hunger for the front-page stories that Baghdad promises. They worry they would be bored with a more ordinary life. Nearly all say they take reasonable precautions.

The war correspondent-mother faces issues her male colleagues can avoid. For starters, those who breastfeed often must wean their babies earlier than they like. Ask anyone who has pumped milk to imagine doing it in a jeep, or without clean water at hand. One correspondent for a major American newspaper learned the hard way on assignment in Chechnya, when she contracted a painful case of mastitis after her breasts grew engorged. Another suffered leaking breasts in a Palestinian town, when roadblocks kept her from getting home in time to nurse. "It was agony," she recalls. "I was tempted to pick up the first baby I saw and plant it on my breasts."

Aside from nursing, other work adjustments must be made, as the most famous female war correspondent of our generation recounts. CNN's Christiane Amanpour says she has a greater awareness of danger since the birth of her son, John, four years ago. She still goes to hot spots, though. After September 11, she spent about three months covering the Afghan war and has since done stints in Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. But she has changed the way she works. "I take more care with personal safety since I feel I have a whole new responsibility with a young child who depends on me," she says.

Most of the women would agree that, after peril, their biggest concern is separation. Assignments in Afghanistan or Iraq, for example, typically last at least three weeks, if not several months. It can take a month just to get into Chechnya, and becoming trapped there for weeks is a distinct possibility. Israel, in a way, seems to offer the best setup for mothers who cover wars. They can breakfast with the kids, go to Gaza to cover news, and get home in time for dinner. Even then, careful planning is needed. Fox News's Jennifer Griffin and her husband, Greg Myre of The New York Times, try not to be in a dangerous place, like Nablus, on the same day. "The juxtaposition can be a little surreal," Griffin says. "Sometimes I will be in the West Bank sitting across from some masked gunman. I will say, 'Hold on just a second, I have to make sure that my husband will pick up my daughter from preschool at one o'clock.'"

Logistics were equally complicated for Catherine Bond, forty-three, when she headed CNN's Nairobi bureau. Her son was tiny as she covered Africa's toughest spots: Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, both Congos, Ethiopia, Eritrea. Bond's husband, an aid worker, frequently traveled to Sudan, so they tried to ensure that both were not away simultaneously for more than one night. Bond and her cameraman perfected the art of keeping trips to no more than ten days, and once she took her toddler and nanny along to Uganda. Bond installed the pair in a comfortable hotel suite while she went out to report.

The common wisdom in war correspondent circles is that given stability and a loving home – a good nanny is essential – the kids will turn out all right. Preschoolers can remain clueless about their environment and don't ponder why mommy leaves the house with a flak jacket. Still, some say it's challenging to remain involved with their children while on the road. Satellite telephones allow daily chats, but sometimes children who resent the separation refuse to take calls. Decompressing after a trip can be tough, too, as parents readjust from survival mode to the prosaic. After the intensity of life and death, changing diapers can seem tedious. Cynde Strand, supervising editor on CNN's international desk, who was formerly based in Johannesburg, says she can easily shift gears by playing with her five-year-old, Luke. But dealing with the local Moms and Tots group after one particularly hairy assignment was another matter. "All the moms were talking about how well their kids were doing on the merry-go-round of activities," she recalls. "I started talking about the massacre site I had just filmed a few days ago in Ivory Coast and how I had to put cigarette butts up my nose to keep the stench from making me vomit. Hmmm."

Griffin tries hard to cocoon her daughters. But despite her best efforts, the real world intrudes. The elder daughter asked why her best friend suddenly left the country (the war). And a bomb exploded at the Moment Café down the street from their house. "I had to stay calm enough so that she didn't feel fear," Griffin recalls. Paradoxically, Griffin maintains that raising children is precisely what keeps her sane after a hard day filming violence. "The birthing process affirms life," she says. "I've found my sanity in the young innocent faces of my children." Another upside is the impact on writing. Several mothers said they were better reporters now, with sharpened insight into human suffering. They say some of their best work has been about mothers wandering the streets calling for their dead children, or toddlers who witnessed their parents' executions. "I have taken many incredible pictures of women and children in war and in hunger that made an impact on world opinion," says CNN's Strand, "but I never really saw those pictures until I had a child of my own."

Those who do give up the road can feel frustrated. I did. When two hundred people were massacred in Uganda recently, Bond's first reaction was that she had to get on a plane. "Then I thought, 'You can't. You're breastfeeding and the other child has a cold.'"

Demick, too, feels ambivalent watching Iraq from the sidelines. Now based in Seoul, she was torn between yearning to go to Baghdad and feeling that she should stay home with Nicholas, now four. As a single parent, she was aware that the boy would be orphaned if she were killed, so she held back from volunteering. But what happens if war breaks out with North Korea? Demick pauses, briefly. "I've thought quite a bit about that," she says. "You have to make a choice." A friend or the nanny would whisk Nicholas to Australia, or to Manhattan where Demick's mother lives. His passport is always handy. But Demick would remain behind, to cover the story.

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