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Journalists under Fire

The Psychological Hazards of Covering War

Anthony Feinstein foreword by Chris Hedges

Publication Year: 2006

As journalists in Iraq and other hot spots around the world continue to face harrowing dangers and personal threats, neuropsychiatrist Anthony Feinstein offers a timely and important exploration into the psychological damage of those who, armed only with pen, tape recorder, or camera, bear witness to horror. Based on a series of recent studies investigating the emotional impact of war on the profession, Journalists under Fire breaks new ground in the study of trauma-related disorders. Feinstein opens with an overview of the life-threatening hazards war reporters face—abductions, mock executions, the deaths of close colleagues—and discusses their psychological consequences: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, deterioration of personal relationships, and substance abuse. In recounting the experiences of reporters who encounter trauma on the job, Feinstein observes that few adequate support systems are in place for them. He tells the stories of media veterans who have "seen it all," only to find themselves and their employers blindsided by psychological aftershocks. The book explores the biological and psychological factors that motivate journalists to take extraordinary risks. Feinstein looks into the psyches of freelancers who wade into war zones with little or no financial backing; he examines the different stresses encountered by women working in a historically male-dominated profession; and he probes the effects of the September 11 attacks on reporters who thought they had sworn off conflict reporting. His interviews with many of this generation's greatest reporters, photographers, and videographers often reveal extraordinary resilience in the face of adversity. Journalists under Fire is a look behind the public persona of war journalists at a time when the profession faces unprecedented risk. Plucking common threads from disparate stories, Feinstein weaves a narrative that is as fascinating to read as it is sobering to contemplate. What emerges are unique insights into lives lived dangerously.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

When it is all over, when the emotional and physical exhaustion have left war journalists depleted and broken, their personal lives often in shambles, their sleep plagued by images of carnage and death, and their careers at times in tatters, they come home to their news organizations, or, in the slang of the profession, to the beast. The beast, which for years they fed...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book owes much to the journalists who made time in busy, often hectic schedules to fill out questionnaires and meet with me. Of those I interviewed, all were prepared to be quoted, although some preferred anonymity. I have respected this need for confidentiality, which in rare instances meant that I had to alter some personal identifying characteristics...

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1 A Hazardous Profession

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pp. 1-23

The patient who entered my office on a frigid December morning came with an interesting history. The referral note from the hospital’s senior neurologist laid out the clinical details. The woman suddenly took ill in a restaurant while dining with family and friends...

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2 Danger’s Troubled Legacy: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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pp. 24-45

The dangers war journalists work under were exposed, tragically, early on in my study. With the questionnaires en route to him, Miguel Gil Moreno, one of the most respected cameramen in the profession, was killed while covering the civil war in Sierra Leone. Shock, disbelief, outrage, anguish— I would witness these emotions time and again when war journalists were killed or wounded.

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3 Why Take the Risks?

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pp. 46-71

‘‘war in europe over. There is absolutely no reason to get up in the mornings any more.’’ So ends the memoir of Robert Capa, the great war photographer. It is a revealing final statement and encapsulates a philosophy to life shared by many of his colleagues. War may be ‘‘that stupid crime, that devil’s madness,’’ yet for a small...

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4 Depression, Drink, and Drugs

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pp. 72-88

The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan provided bleak evidence of the high mortality rate that comes with telling war’s story. In just over one week, eight journalists were killed. Among them was Julio Fuentes, ranked as one of the half dozen most experienced war journalists of his generation by the...

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5 Freelance War Journalists

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pp. 89-114

On September 27, 2002, the Times of London ran an obituary titled ‘‘British TV Man Killed in Chechen Battle.’’ The article, which angered the small community of freelance journalists, reported that ‘‘the British author of a travel guide to the world’s most dangerous places has been killed as Chechen rebels fought a fierce battle against an overwhelming Russian force.’’...

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6 War, Women, Wives, and Widows

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pp. 115-135

In October 2001, just before the start of the American bombing in Afghanistan, a female journalist from the Express newspaper in the United Kingdom donned a full burka, hired two local stringers, and slipped across the Pakistan border astride a donkey. Beneath the billowing folds of her disguise, she carried a camera and her notebook...

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7 Domestic Journalists and Urban Terror: The Aftermath of September 11

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pp. 136-154

On a bright autumnal September morning I was doing a ward round on a psychiatry unit. Situated in a crumbling wing of an old veterans hospital, the ward, like many psychiatric facilities dating from the World War II era, has a rundown, decrepit feel. A sparsely furnished room, upholstery stained and ripped, drapes that...

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8 The Iraq War: In Bed with the Military

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pp. 155-181

The terrorist attacks of September 11 and the American-led invasion of Iraq less than two years later presented journalists with uniquely different sets of challenges. On September 11, mayhem arrived unexpectedly, the surprise was complete, and journalists averse to conflict reporting suddenly found themselves war...

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pp. 182-186

My interview with a defensive Maggie O’Kane started on a difficult note. ‘‘I don’t necessarily buy your theory that we are all traumatized,’’ she told me. I assured her that was not my view. And indeed, the results of my studies proved us correct. After a decade or more of confronting extremely hazardous situations, some journalists...

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pp. 187-189


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pp. 191-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889356
E-ISBN-10: 0801889359
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801884412
Print-ISBN-10: 0801884411

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • War correspondents -- Mental health -- Case studies.
  • War -- Psychological aspects.
  • Neuroses -- Case studies.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder -- Case studies.
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