Sunday, March 25, 2007

NBC Reporters Curry And Engel Are Tremendous

There is nothing more important for America in the news these days than that reporters of what is going on in the turbulent Middle East and East Africa do their jobs well. It takes unusual courage, stamina and intelligence.

I've written before about the valuable Mideast newspaper reporting of John Burns, Kim Murphy, Megan Stack, Laura King, Solomon Moore and Alissa Rubin for the L.A. Times and/or New York Times. Some day these reporters should win Medals of Freedom for their service to the American public.

Plaudits should go too to two NBC television reporters who, just this past week were involved in distinguished reporting -- Ann Curry in the Sudan and Richard Engel in Iraq.

Both had important assignments come to fruition, and I hope millions were watching.

Curry, journeying to the Sudan from her usual post as a newswoman on NBC's Today program, conducted the first televised American interview with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and visited a refugee camp in the Sudan's Darfur region to interview victims of a campaign by Arab militias that has murdered an estimated 200,000 black Muslims, despite repeated protests around the world. When Curry was interviewing Bashir, she did not mince words. She called the massacres "shocking" right to his face. Bashir, who has resisted implantation of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur. did not have a convincing response.

Engel, meanwhile, had an hour-long program on MSNBC, "War Zone Diary," detailing his four years of experience covering Iraq as first a freelancer for ABC and later as a regular correspondent for NBC. This was an unvarnished report of the grim events that have taken place in that God-forsaken country, as bloodstained terrorists fought American soldiers and tried to inspire a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Engel's program caught the appearance of this time in Iraq as perhaps no other network program has.

Reporting in the Middle East is, needless to say, dangerous. More reporters have been killed in Iraq than in World War II. and network reporters, Kimberly Dozier for CBS and Bob Woodruff for ABC among them, have been severely injured there. Woodruff was an anchor for ABC when he went to Iraq and became the victim of an attack.

So far, Engel has been lucky. But needless to say, this 33-year-old Stanford graduate is in frequent danger. He has given his all for this assignment, which cost him his marriage, but he has earned the trust both of his colleagues and the public for his frank and detailed accounts.

Curry, 50, has 14 and 12-year old children and a husband at home in the U.S., yet she has gone several times into war zones, not only in the Sudan, but in Lebanon, and has always brought a humanitarian perspective to her reporting. Curry was passed over as a possible anchor for the Today program when Katie Couric left for CBS, but the service she has done since is more important than being an anchor.

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Plaudits should go too today to the L.A. Times editorial page staff for quickly assembling and publishing this morning's Current section, after the section that had been planned, by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, was cancelled for ethical reasons. This led to the resignation of Andres Martinez as editor of the editorial pages. Today's Current is quite serviceable, in fact containing more news than Grazer's section would have, and, among other things, carries a very good column by Ron Brownstein on the race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I've been critical of Brownstein in the past, so hasten to compliment him now on rushing into the breach here and doing a good job on short notice. I imagine Current editor Nick Goldberg also deserves commendation.

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