With almost 30 reporters and photographers killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion and journalists increasingly seen by insurgents as fair game for killing and kidnapping, many news organizations are listing the inability to gather news outside the heavily fortified "green zone" — or plain old fear for their correspondents’ lives — as a reason to sound a hasty retreat.
For now, however, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has no plans to bring home reporter Amy Schlesing and photographer Stephen B. Thornton, who are embedded with the 39th Infantry Brigade. Schlesing has been with the 39th — first in Kuwait, then in Iraq — since March. Thornton is the latest of four D-G photographers sent to cover the conflict.
While Deputy Editor Frank Fellone said the D-G’s people have come "pretty close" to being hurt on more than one occasion, he said there is no move afoot among upper-level editors at the paper to pull them out. So far, he said, Schlesing and Thornton haven’t asked to come home.
"They know better than we do," Fellone said. "I think that’s really the thing. They are there. They know the circumstances much better than we do."
While Fellone said that keeping reporters in such a dangerous situation leads to some tough questions, he added that if Schlesing and Thornton relayed to D-G editors that their lives were in danger or that the risks they faced were too great, they’d be brought home.
"I know a lot of news organizations have pulled back in a lot of places in Iraq because it’s tough there," Fellone said. "I think it’s best to say that if our folks felt the risks were unacceptable, we would welcome them home speedily."
By the time you read this, KTHV Channel 11 second banana Liz Massey will have gotten the bump up to one of the station’s big chairs. Starting Oct. 11, Massey — formerly the station’s weekend anchor — will get her shot as co-anchor of KTHV’s 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, replacing the sometimes hit-or-miss Karen Brady, who left the station in September for a job in a bigger market, WCCO in Minneapolis.
An Arkansas State University grad, Massey signed on with the station in early 2000 as a general assignment reporter before her move to the weekend anchor’s desk in March 2002.
A heartbeat away from the big show, "THV This Morning" alumnus and former general assignment reporter Win Noble will step up to helm the weekend news.
Not to toot our own horn, but given that grumbling about the Arkansas Times’ dinosaur-era Internet presence is almost a pastime among our web-savvy fans, we had to give a plug for our new-and-improved website, appearing this week at www.arkansastimes.com. With almost a decade since our site had a virtual makeover, this represents something of a quantum leap for us. Features include a staff-updated blog on topics of Arkansas interest, a simpler interface, embedded links to relevant documents and websites in each story, and a much sharper homepage.
We’re mostly proud, however, of the content. While the old website posted only a few things from each week’s paper, the new site will feature nearly every word and photograph from that week’s Times, all in easy-to-search categories.
Never fret, however. For those who find it hard to curl up with a cup of coffee and a laptop, ink-and-paper versions of the Times are still available on a street corner near you (we tend to like those better, too).