“I love what I do,” NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel told an audience of about 150 people at Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair this weekend. “I have the best job in the news business,” he told the crowd.
It’s a job that often puts him in the crossfire of war, and more recently, The White House. Those who came to hear about his war reporting — detailed in his new book, War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq — were eager to hear his firsthand accounts and wish him well. “I’m glad you’re okay,” one viewer told Engel as she got her book signed.
Engel tells TVNewser he emerged unscathed from “one of the worst firefights I’ve ever been in in my entire experience in Iraq.” It wasn’t during the height of the insurgent fight, though, but “just a few weeks ago in Sadr City.”
War coverage, he says, is “incredibly fascinating. Every year it is different, and it is not over yet.” War Journal, a follow-up to his first Iraq tome, A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest, begins with Saddam Hussein’s capture “and covers all the different phases of the war…the experience of the war,” Engel explains.
A war he calls “the story of our times.”
More from Engel about the conflict, his career, and his interview with President Bush — plus additional photos…
(photo by Alissa Krinsky)
• On the war itself: “It was a war of opportunity. And it’s hard to square that circle. When you have a war that isn’t necessarily a clear and imminent danger…taking an opportunity and trying to do something that you believe is right, the bar is incredibly high. So high, I don’t know if you can ever get there…things have to go so incredibly well for people to go back and say, ‘That was a good idea.'”
• On expressing his views on the war in his book: “I felt pretty comfortable doing it. Each report I do for [NBC] is a straight-up news report and those are the stories I’ve been doing from Iraq for the last five-plus years. When you string them all together…it’s a private experience. It’s my journal, it’s my notes…it’s how I’ve been experiencing the telling of those stories and what has gone into telling many of those stories. It’s not an editorial, it is not a long, thought piece about the war. It is an on-the-ground look at what it’s been like…This is war. It has been a very intense experience. I didn’t struggle with [expressing some views] too much.”
• On criticism from the White House on the editing of his May Nightly News interview with President Bush: “I stand by the editing. I don’t think it was a problem…It was about the editing of one answer to one question. That full answer aired on the Today show immediately after the interview aired. And then it was posted immediately on the website…So if there was something deceptive, and we were hiding something, why would we have aired it the first time and then told everyone where to see it in full? It doesn’t seem like if you’d committed a crime, that’s a very good way to hide your tracks.”
• On what his April promotion to Chief Foreign Correspondent means: “It’s the same job as it was, it just gives me the opportunity to explore more stories…I think over time, over the next several years it will mean that I’ll get an opportunity to branch out a little bit, and I look forward to that.”
• On whether he plans to remain overseas for the long haul: “Something about international reporting is still very raw. You are covering a developing story and it’s like almost being a hunter-gatherer…and there is something about that I find very worthwhile. And I love doing it…I’ve been living [abroad] for 12 years. By now, living overseas is home to me.”
Richard Engel greets a viewer…
…and signs a copy of his new book.
Audience members listen as Richard Engel speaks.
• Earlier: So What Do You Do, Richard Engel?