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Dartmouth Graduates Talk About Bringing Home the Horrors of War

  • CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, a former ABC News correspondent, is introduced by Army Capt. Stoney Portis at a panel discussion at Dartmouth College about conflict reporting. (Valley News - Libby March)

    CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, a former ABC News correspondent, is introduced by Army Capt. Stoney Portis at a panel discussion at Dartmouth College about conflict reporting. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Photojournalist James Nachtwey, center, talks with Dartmouth graduate students Ron Bucca, left, and Philip Fernandes, before yesterday’s panel discussion at Dartmouth. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Photojournalist James Nachtwey, center, talks with Dartmouth graduate students Ron Bucca, left, and Philip Fernandes, before yesterday’s panel discussion at Dartmouth. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Photojournalist James Nachtwey, right, and CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, left, talk with Chris Wohlforth, prior to a panel discussion. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Photojournalist James Nachtwey, right, and CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, left, talk with Chris Wohlforth, prior to a panel discussion. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, a former ABC News correspondent, is introduced by Army Capt. Stoney Portis at a panel discussion at Dartmouth College about conflict reporting. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Photojournalist James Nachtwey, center, talks with Dartmouth graduate students Ron Bucca, left, and Philip Fernandes, before yesterday’s panel discussion at Dartmouth. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Photojournalist James Nachtwey, right, and CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor Jake Tapper, left, talk with Chris Wohlforth, prior to a panel discussion. (Valley News - Libby March)

Modern warfare has become increasingly invisible.

It’s why James Nachtwey and Jake Tapper have worked hard to put a human face on war.

Conveying the stories of those involved has been their biggest and most important challenge.

Nachtwey, an award-winning photojournalist, and Tapper, a CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent, gave Dartmouth graduate students a rare insight into war reporting during a panel discussion, moderated by Master of Arts in Liberal Studies student and Army Capt. Stoney Portis, at the college yesterday.

The Dartmouth graduates spoke of the rigors, roles and responsibilities of reporting on war and combat, and drew on personal experiences when explaining the challenges and successes that inspired their work.

Nachtwey knows all too well that those covering war will not forget it. He said his “very intense experiences” would stay with him forever.

“It becomes something you just carry through life,” he said yesterday to a group of more than 40 graduate students.

“Hopefully, you can carry it gracefully. When you’re witnessing other people’s tragedies it’s a powerful experience. It’s not easy to do. There are a lot of emotional obstacles you have to overcome in the moment to actually do your work. You have to have a sense of purpose about your work. Without that sense of purpose it would be impossible to witness what you’re witnessing.”

Nachtwey has had friends killed right next to him, something “he still feels,” he said. Witnessing his New York neighborhood viciously attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, was also a difficult moment in his career. But of all the horrible things Nachtwey has seen, it was the genocide in Rwanda that was the least comprehensible.

“I was traumatized,” he said. “It’s still hard for me to believe it could have happened.”

Images from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on Nachtwey, and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer.

Since 1981, he has documented wars all over the world. He said his pictures were his testimony. The events he has recorded, he believes, should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.

“There are people who have been rendered invisible and not given a voice,” said Nachtwey, who is serving as the Roth Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth. “I believe they feel you’re (photographers and journalists) their messenger. You’re going to take their message to the outside world.”

Tapper, who has covered the war in Iraq for ABC News, yesterday said modern war was invisible.

“If you want to not know anything about the war, you can very easily go about your life,” Tapper said.

“We don’t tell enough serious stories of war,” he said. “The public excuses its own role far too regularly in serious stories not getting the light of day. If the American people demand news focusing on wars, and network television and cable news knew that if they put it on and millions of Americans would watch, we’d get more of it.”

It is why he has tried to tell stories about people Americans do not know.

He said his latest book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, which documents eight American service members killed in the attack on Combat Outpost Keating in 2009, had been successful because it revealed real stories.

The book’s purpose, he said, was to help readers better understand what American troops go through, why they go through it, and what their experience had been like in Afghanistan.

“There are 2 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are thousands who died, tens of thousands more who lost limbs, hundreds of thousands with mental or emotional injuries,” he said.

“It’s a sizeable number of Americans who are paying for decisions that the public at large makes, but the public at large has borne no cost,” he said. “It’s important to recognize the incredible amount of pain and sacrifice that this very small percentage of people has undergone for us.”

But Tapper, like Nachtwey, doesn’t get discouraged. It only spurs him on to make visible the costs and pain of war.

PHOTO CORRECTION

Captions for photographs associated with this article have been amended to correct an earlier error. Former ABC correspondent Jake Tapper is now an anchor and chief Washington correspondent at CNN.