Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2013 19:06:25 +0200
- J Johnson
In the Hot Zone
In his book, In The Hot Zone, Kevin Sites logs his ethical dilemmas, narrates eye-witness accounts of war tragedies, and explains his personal inner conflict with his social responsibility as a human verses his responsibility as a journalist. Throughout his adventures, Sites interjects his responsibility as a journalist, to “report the truth” and “consideration of its potential harm” (16).
Sites lays the book out in sections in correlation to his travels. As he traveled to Iraq, Somalia, the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Israel, Gaza, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Nepal, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Israel. In each place, Sites gives insight into the politics between producers and editors at the major networks he is acting as correspondent for, such as NBC.
In his book, Sites explains how the network works with him as a war correspondent. He is basically wandering around through conflict zones recording what he is seeing through a video camera and various interviews on the fly, and feeding the video back to NBC through satellite. When the network felt he was betraying them, they emphasized his “freelance” status.
Sites also explains the advantage of keeping a personal blog. In his blog, he can expound upon his experiences and place the video NBC showed further into context. When things went wrong where the network released some of his footage out of context, he was able to use his blog as a platform to write letters to the public. By that time, his blog had gained such a large readership that he was receiving death threats and hate mail by the hundreds even after certain dramas had faded.
Sites seeks to use his own experience as a kind of manual and example for other journalists as well as for the general American public. His book helps even the average reader to understand the professional and personal sacrifices journalists have to make. As a war correspondent, Sites has to focus more on making ethical and moral choices on a daily basis as opposed to simple local news back in the United States. As war correspondent and Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner once summarized, she never felt as betrayed by the American public as when she went to Iraq. Kevin Sites basically explores this same sentiment while discussing his personal blog and meetings with network producers. The perpetual ethical and moral wrestling match Sites goes through while shooting video or writing a story plagues him more than what he will cover. Sites reveals how wearing covering war as a journalist is, he is nearly as psychologically affected as soldiers. He explains how he leaves for Asia to escape for awhile at one point, and while he is free of the war scene during the day, he faces nightmares and restless sleep at night. The face, and smell of death, is relentless.
Kevin Sites works hard to portray the reality of war through his book and film, In the Hot Zone. Sites tries to remove himself from the picture; this is not to say that he tries to be subjective, rather, Sites focuses on being the eyes for those who cannot see what is going on while simultaneously helping the American public to understand the issues surrounding the conflicts in the various countries he visited. In explaining the personal problems, such as how he is affected, how NBC and other networks treat him, Sites seeks to humbly put forth not only his story, but the reality that he faces. In reporting the truth, he shows how the journalist is practically an independent warrior apart from the government and troops. Sites illustrates through his personal experience as a journalist abroad that his responsibility is as a human before he is a journalist. He explains that any death he witnesses or captures on film is his responsibility as soon as he sees it. The guilt he faces when not doing anything for someone spitting up blood is evidenced when he essentially journals about the situation and appears to ask himself what he could have done better. He almost regrets his behavior of standing there and filming the moment on video. Even as an experienced journalist, he is just as unsure of when his role of journalist switches over to fellow human being as a student in journalism.