Baghdad is the most dangerous city in the world in the eyes of CBS News producer Larry Doyle.
Speaking with students at the School of Communication Monday, Doyle talked about what difficulties and life-threatening dangers journalists face on a daily basis when working to cover the stories Americans see and read about every day.
“When it gets dark in Baghdad nobody goes out,” he said.
Doyle first went to Iraq in 1990 and has been to Iraq more than a dozen times in the past few years. For the past 20 years, he has been in charge of CBS news coverage in almost every major hotspot in the world.
He sat casually on a stool, resting his right arm on a podium, and faced the dozens of students in attendance at Shojaee Hall in the School of Communication.
Doyle began by explaining that the CBS staff needs to be as inconspicuous as possible when they go out in the city. Staffers purposely dirty their cars and, at the hotel where CBS is stationed, they put in reinforced steel doors and at least four cameras around the area.
Furthermore, journalists interview locals at the hotel instead of going to homes, which he said draws too much attention.
“There [are] a multitude of dangers in covering a story,” Doyle said, “but the even greater danger comes to the Iraqi to whom you speak.”
Due to the language barrier and the uncertainty facing journalists, they rely on the locals to take the “temperature” of the area and to them help find stories. This puts the Iraqis who are aiding the Americans in great danger.
Doyle said he feels good about the stories that CBS is able to cover, but knows that there are so many more stories that are not being told.
“It’s flawed journalism that comes out of Iraq,” Doyle said.
Josh Knight, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, feels that all the media attention and articles coming from Iraq has made him almost jaded to the issues there.
“Hearing someone firsthand with firsthand pictures and stories really wakes you,” Knight said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, this really is going on right now.'”
Doyle said Baghdad residents have a dismal existence, noting that there is usually no power in the city and, when there is, it is only for two to three hours at a time. They walk by destruction and ruins that are never cleaned or removed.
“Depression is probably the emotion you see the most talking to Iraqis in Baghdad,” he said. “That and desperation.”
Regarding the war, Doyle said he has not seen any progress, but cannot prove this.
“I don’t know how you can measure progress in a city without law, with a government that is inept and corrupt, with a society that has no electricity or schools.”
In an interview with The Miami Hurricane, Doyle said he gets nervous every time he goes back to Iraq, but he still goes because he feels it is the story of this generation.
“I cry a lot when I’m in Baghdad,” he admitted. “I also get angry, but then I ask, ‘Who are you going to be angry at?'”
Claire Hosmann, a junior broadcast journalism major, said she appreciated Doyle’s honesty and the different perspective he offered on the situation in Iraq.
“We need to learn about what’s really going on there and know what the people are going through before we can help,” she said.
Doyle said his one piece of advice to students and aspiring journalists is to learn more about the world.
“I encourage them to immerse themselves in knowledge about everything that’s going on there,” he said.
“Get different opinions, read different articles and go to the most extreme steps possible if you want to help in the future to restore some kind of peace and order.”
Janal Montagna may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.