Richard Engel, NBC News

Last night, I read a disturbing story about NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel.

Apparently, he and an NBC News producer have been missing since Thursday, somewhere in Syria.

Here is the link to that article.

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I was prepared to wake up this morning and write a somber blog post about his disappearance. However, as I fired up the computer, breaking news was flashing over at NBCNews.com: Engel and his crew had been released from unknown captors in Syria. They were all safely out of the country! I know that sex and death sells, but this blog post goes on, regardless. It’s time for some good news.

As a child, even up through high school and a few years beyond, it was my dream to become a reporter. No– not one of these flashy folks that sit behind the desk and read opinions handed down from the station owner, disguised as news– I wanted to be in the field, learning from people. Eventually, this dream gave way to life. My passion for travel grew and my employment took me in that direction. There is still a spark, though— and I feel myself gravitating back towards that dream of chasing a story. Will it come full circle? Unlikely, but we’ll see.

Anyway, back to Richard Engel. He is one of my favorites! Whenever I hear somebody talk about NBC or CBS being the “liberal media,” I do look to some of their reporters and anchors and shake my head in agreement. Engel, however, is the real deal. He reminds me of Christiane Amanpour, he has all the knowledge without the attitude or liberal bent. The man has lived in the Middle East since graduating from Stanford in 1996 with a B.A. in international relations. Living in Cairo for a spell taught him how to speak fluent Arabic, and his travels throughout the Middle East have given him the skills to speak the language in several dialects.

He is also one of the only Western journalists to have covered the entire Iraq War, from its start in 2003. He has written two books, one of which chronicles his reporting in Iraq. The man has seen war and the consequences of it and has been in dangerous situations, covering the 2006 Israel and Hezbollah from Beirut and southern Lebanon. And the awards have stacked up, one on top of the other. But reporters like Richard Engel aren’t in the game for awards. No, they’re doing what they do to inform us, back at home. They want us to know the real story of what is happening halfway around the world and how it may affect us. And for that, reporters like Richard Engel win my respect.

Yesterday, reading about Engel’s disappearance took me back to a sad morning in April of 2003. At the time, I was working at WNWO-TV, the NBC affiliate in Toledo, Ohio. I worked as a master control operator– fancy term for hitting a button to make the commercials go. Part of the job was watching The Today Show every morning and making sure I hit the cues for local commercials to be inserted in a timely fashion.

The War in Iraq began on March 20th and every morning I sat with rapt attention as David Bloom reported from the front lines. In his “Bloom Mobile,” as it was called (a tank retrofitted with live television and satellite equipment, allowing for live reports with the troops as they pushed toward Baghdad). The scenes were riveting and Bloom’s reporting was top-notch. However, on the morning of April 6th, Today opened with sad news: David Bloom had died in Iraq. Immediately, thoughts turned to how he was killed… after all, he was in the middle of a war zone, he was surely killed. It turned out that Bloom had died of natural causes at the age of only 39, after suffering a pulmonary embolism that stemmed from deep vein thrombosis.

No matter the manner in which he died, David Bloom was a reporter’s reporter– doing his job in a stellar fashion to keep all of us back at home knowledgable about the events in Iraq. He also worked to give a face to “the troops” as he stood by their side, reporting what they were actually seeing. His reports were simply breathtaking.

So, yesterday, reading about Richard Engel, my heart skipped. I didn’t want to see another reporter end up attacked or maimed or killed, like Danny Pearl or Lara Logan. Yes, these folks know the risk of taking on assignments in foreign countries in the midst of war… but nobody is rooting for that to happen. There was a time, before terrorism was the keyword, that press were off-limits to hostage-taking. But not anymore. Terror groups don’t play by rules, and some foreign governments don’t, either.

It was nice to wake up and see some good news this morning. Here is to Richard Engel— may he and all other reporters working on shaky foreign soil continue to be safe and keep us informed.

By the way, we have our first school reading of Pete the Popcorn this morning since Friday’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m curious to see up-close and in-person any enhanced security measures that schools are taking. Also, how the kids are reacting… I’ll try to get another post up later today.

Nick

 

 

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