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Charlotte Observer's Mark Johnson '88 Tells Tales of Life as a Reporter in Iraq

Charlotte Observer's Mark Johnson '88 Tells Tales of Life as a Reporter in Iraq

September 29, 2003

September 29, 2003, Greencastle, Ind. - "Embedded as a newspaper reporter with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq, 1988 DePauw University graduate Mark Johnson can pinpoint the exact moment he engaged the enemy: Fear," writes Eric Bernsee in today's Banner-Graphic. "Propped Snoopy-like atop a Humvee along a desert highway, his laptop on his knees, Johnson began to write that day's story to e-mail to the Charlotte Observer. His computer screen illuminating his head and shoulders, Johnson was unceremoniously interrupted by an Army officer. 'Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to move,' the officer ordered and Johnson recalled for a DePauw University audience at Watson Forum. 'You're sniper bait right now.'"

The story continues, "A political science major who wrote for The DePauw... Johnson instantly felt vulnerable, advising the Army officer his newspaper had given him plenty of money and he would gladly pay to be taken somewhere else. Anywhere else. Preferably somewhere closer to his wife and kids (ages 3 and 7). Right now. Now more embattled than embedded, Johnson retreated inside a truck to finish that day's story."

In the article, Johnson, political reporter for the Observer who spoke at DePauw Thursday night, tells more tales of what it was like to report from within Iraq. Of Army officials, he says, "I was surprised at their candor. The media doesn't have the greatest track record with the military." As far as the U.S. troops are concerned, Johnson says, "I ran into very, very few with battle lust. Most were like, 'Man, I hope it's over quick.'" And the DePauw alumnus tells the newspaper he'd "do it all over again... calling the experience 'one for the grandkids.'"

You can access the complete story at the Banner-Graphic's Web site by clicking here.