Heed your inner compass,’ war reporter advises in speech at SBU
By Amanda Gerani
SBU J-School Reporter
Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News Middle East correspondent who nearly died in a Baghdad car bombing on Memorial Day in 2006, said during a speech at Stony Brook University that she “went from being a reporter under siege” to becoming the story that she had been covering.
Dozier was on a routine assignment in Baghdad with her crew, cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Broman, and her military escort, Army Capt. James Alex Funkhouser when a car bomb exploded, shooting tons of shrapnel into the air. Both crew members and Funkhouser were killed.
Dozier was left struggling for life, she said, and most doctors on the scene did not think she would survive. She had shrapnel in her brain and both of her femurs were shattered.
After a long, complicated recovery, Dozier is back on her feet, telling people about her journey and how she managed to avoid post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dozier, who started her career as a print and radio reporter, spoke in the Stony Brook Student Activities Center as a part of the “My Life As…” lecture series sponsored by the SBU School of Journalism. She was introduced by Associate Dean Marcy McGinnis, who once served as CBS’ senior vice president for news and gave Dozier the chance to become a television reporter in 1995.
After the explosion, Dozier said, many other reporters sought interviews. It was
the “worst possible thing to be on the other side of the camera,” she said, knowing that viewers would see her in poor physical condition.
Dozier urged students to be resolute in pursuit of goals and to heed “your internal compass.”
She said that she “had to get through the guilt and the grief” and gain confidence that she would recover. If she had listened to those who had told her she would never walk properly again, Dozier said, she would not have overcome wounds that could have left her permanently disabled.
As a reporter, she is now in a “fantastic position to teach people” about the difficulties posed by severe injuries and the possibility of overcoming.
Commenting on the rigors of combat reporting, Dozier said the assignment can be a daunting and dangerous task — not only for reporters, but for the people they are interviewing as well.
For local Iraqis, talking to foreign reporters might have invited attacks from extremists.
“We cannot sanitize the war or erase the risk,” said Dozier after being asked if she had regrets.
Before the explosion, Dozier and her crew had been reporting in Dora, an Iraqi city with a high level of violence.
“Within 24 hours, massive car bombs had gone off, over spots we had either walked over or driven over,” said Dozier, “and it was a message.”
Dozier and her crew started “ninja reporting” – quickly dropping in and out of a situation hoping to get their story and leave before an attack, Dozier said.
Danger was not the only obstacle that Dozier faced as a foreign television news reporter. She had to deal with critics of CBS on the left and right at home and the view of military officials in Iraq who considered CBS a “rather biased network.”
Internet blogs of right-wing Americans called Dozier a “terrorist cheerleader,” while left-wing supporters called her a “cheerleading pimp for Bush’s war in Iraq,” the reporter said.
Dozier said reporters must continue their work despite criticism.
“Stick to your guns,” she said.