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Review of “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” Film Screening

Tuesday night, DePauw students gathered in the Prindle Courtyard for an outdoor screening of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, a recent documentary that zeroes in on the covert military operations happening in several Middle Eastern countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. Journalist Jeremy Scahill serves as tour guide, traveling from city to city to uncover aspects of the war on terror about which the American public knows next to nothing. Dirty Wars, directed by Rick Rowley, is a captivating film, both from an ethical and cinematic standpoint. When I saw this film over the summer, I thought it would be ideal to screen at Prindle for the multitude of current issues it brings to light. I’ll provide a brief preview of the concerns at hand:

First and foremost, Scahill emphasizes the human rights violations that result from these military raids. They’re in countries where we haven’t legally waged war, and innocent civilians are often killed in the process. The film features actual cell-phone video footage from victims’ families detailing these events. A second issue involves the individuals that these missions are targeting. Scahill calls the kill-list “never-ending” and doubts the legitimacy of the method used to come up with names.

Further, there’s the fact that the American public doesn’t have a clear picture of what is happening with this war. According to the film, we certainly are not being told the whole truth about our involvement in certain countries. The American journalism from that side of the globe is weak, though updates from the war should be more pressing than ever-present mind-numbing pop-culture updates that we’re confronted with on a daily basis.

These are some of the major issues that Scahill and Rowley present in Dirty Wars, and they are issues that should be of considerable importance to American citizens. Dirty Wars is a bold film, and unsurprisingly has elicited a wide range of reactions from different audiences around the country. For the students at Tuesday night’s screening, I think it was nothing short of a thought-provoking experience for all. To learn more about the film and Scahill’s book of the same name, click here.


“When things are at their worst, journalists are at their best.”

I was interning at CBS television station in Chicago last semester when the Boston Marathon Bombings happened. In the hectic newsroom, where everyone was scrambling for accurate details, live interviews and up-to-date coverage, I made the comment, “when things are at their worst, journalists are at their best.” There are certainly exceptions but I believe this to be true of all quality journalists.

The Chicago newsrooms were chaotic following the marathon bombings, but it is impossible to compare the role of a journalist in a distant city to the role of one who is live on the scene. While reporters and anchors around the country watched from afar, those in Boston had to grab a microphone, get ready during the car ride, and almost immediately interview victims and witnesses, including those who almost had their lives taken.

One television journalist who has covered two high-profile tragedies is Suzanne McCarroll, a reporter with CBS station KCNC in Denver. During her career she has been one of the journalists tasked with ethically and delicately covering the horrific situations of both the Columbine High School massacre and the Aurora Theater shootings.

TV reporters covering these breaking stories do not have scripts to read and very little time to contemplate what they want to say, often reporting live for hours at the scene of a major tragedy. Typically, broadcast journalists gather the facts, describe the scene for viewers and interview those involved in or nearby the event.

During the course of this live reporting, many ethical decisions need to be made. It is easy to report false information (like CNN did following the Boston Marathon bombings) and it is easy to be insensitive when interviewing someone who is still in shock or has just lost a loved one.

When Suzanne McCarroll interviewed students from Columbine High School and Batman fans who had sprinted out of that Aurora Theater minutes earlier, she had to think about all of the people her questions and coverage would affect, but ultimately she had a job to do and a responsibility to report the news.

As you will see this Sunday at 7pm in Watson Forum, she did a phenomenal job, and I hope you will join us and hear her share her knowledge and experience about ethically covering tragedies.