Newsbusters has some thoughts on Howard Kurtz’s profile of NBC Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel in the Washington Post:
First, NBC anchor Brian Williams claimed Engel “is the most agenda-less person I’ve met in our business.” Then Engel declared “I think war should be illegal…I’m basically a pacifist.” The story included no critics of Engel’s reporting, but praise from Williams and CBS colleague Lara Logan, and Engel’s mother.
Williams asserted that Engel’s reporting was fearless against annoying media critics: “In an era of instant media criticism, he calls balls and strikes in the middle of a war zone,” says NBC anchor Brian Williams. “He is completely unbothered by any Web site that may have problems with his reporting while he’s over in Iraq dodging bullets….He is the most agenda-less person I’ve met in our business, I think, in the past 20 years.”
Does it sound a little like Williams is saying Internet media critics should shut up and go fight in Iraq before they can have an authoritative opinion? It’s certainly easy for Engel to seem unbothered by critics in a Post story that never asks a media critic of any stripe for an opinion. Here’s the context for Engel’s declaration of pacifism:
Why does he stay? When NBC made Engel its Middle East bureau chief over the summer, he agreed to a new contract and moved to the relative calm of Beirut. Days later he found himself covering a fierce war between Israel and Hezbollah — and was suddenly reenergized. This, for better or worse, is what he does. Not that Engel necessarily approves of military conflict.
“I think war should be illegal,” he says. “I’m basically a pacifist.”
Remember when reporters weren’t tripping over themselves to tell you their biases?