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October 24, 2007

Don’t You Know Who I am? I’m A Reporter Damn It! (Updated Below)

Bobby Caina Calvan is a reporter in Baghdad and apparently the world revolves around him.

It seems our boy Bobby was trying to enter the Green Zone the other day but he couldn’t be bothered to make sure he was carrying sufficient ID to get past security. Now, that might be a problem for mere mortals like you and me but Bobby here is a crackerjack reporter so the rules don’t apply to him. And if he has to get mouthy with an American soldier at a checkpoint in the middle of dangerous area to get his way, so be it.

“We’re bigger than the Journal,” I replied. “You never heard of Knight Ridder?”

He didn’t want to be embarrassed. He already looked irritated. He asked me if I knew the number of the military’s media office.

“I would if you’d let me switch on my phone,” I snapped. “What’s the use of these media badges if people like you aren’t going to honor them? Is this for nothing? Why don’t you call? That’s your job, isn’t it?” I made it known that I was jotting down his name.

My security man was struggling with a smirk on his face. He knew my plan. I was going to bully my way back into the Green Zone.

Blackfive has the rest of the story but unfortunately, it doesn’t have a happy ending. The soldier was professional enough to call for instructions and Bobby got in. Personally, I think he should have been forced to walk around downtown Baghdad, maybe then he would have appreciated the protection of the American servicemen he is so quick to insult.

You can read Bobby’s blog entry for yourself. You may even be moved to comment. Just remember, it’s Bobby Caina Calvan you’re talking to.

BTW- It was Bobby’s news service (McClatchy recently bought Knight Ridder) that gave us the memorable “As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch” story.

UPDATE: Bobby has decided that perhaps he's shared too much and has redacted his post:

(Yes, I’m obviously new to blogging. Somtimes I share too much. The blogosphere has reacted and pointed out my folly. Yes, I can be pushy. I can also be wrong. I’v'e edited this post — and have shut down the comment feature.)

Alas, that was foreseeable so I took the precaution of saving the original post, which you can see in it's full glory below the fold.

UPDATE x2: docweasel has an email from Bobby and is presenting him with a funny award for doing what was previously thought to be impossible...uniting the internet.

While it's good Bobby may have learned an important blogging lesson, the bigger issue to me is this whole Big Footing garbage and treating an American Soldier like a dimwitted rent-a-cop. Let's see how he handles that part of the story.

Lima is beautiful in the spring, when it’s not too hot, I was told. Machu Pichu is a must see, too.

My visits to the Green Zone are always a joy when I pass through checkpoints manned by Peruvian troops, with whom I have established a rapport. Sure, they are sticklers for rules, but unlike Ugandan troops — who have the warmth of armed robots — the Peruvians are simply simpatico.

They are a friendly group with easy smiles. They’ll chat you up while being frisked — a pad down with benefits. They’ll engage you in conversation once they discover you speak their language.

The experience isn’t nearly the same with other multinational forces. The Ugandan troops are often terse. While not mean, their reticence often makes one feel like one of the many sheep being herded through Baghdad’s many checkpoints.

The Americans, however, are the absolute worst. I had a testy exchange Tuesday with an American soldier at an entry checkpoint into the Green Zone.

Most of my entries into the Green Zone had been by car. I was running late to cover a news conference (because one of my security folks was late for work), and we decided to take a short cut through the Green Zone, instead of driving all the way around to get to the Iraqi foreign minister’s office. We had no trouble getting in. (Read the story here.)

We parked the car, and I headed out of the Green Zone (along with one member of my security staff) to attend the news conference. Getting out is seldom ever a problem.

When the news conference was over, we headed back.

That’s when trouble started.

At the first check point, a pair of Ugandan soldiers asked for identification. We showed our military-issued badges. Unbeknownst to us, we were supposed to be carrying an additional form of ID.

He asked for a passport. I told him I didn’t have it on me. (The advice is to lock up your passport once in Baghdad and never take it out until departing.) He asked for another form of ID, and I replied that I didn’t have anything else.

The American soldier assigned by the U.S. military to oversee this particular checkpoint came over to investigate the problem.

He asked if I had a driver’s license on me. I told him I didn’t have one. He looked incredulous. Why would I need a driver’s license in Baghdad; I wouldn’t be driving, I told him.

He took offense at my response.

Then he looked at the second ID of my companion. It was a badge issued by our newspaper. He said it wouldn’t do. Besides, he asked, what is Knight Ridder?

“I never heard of it,” he said. He probably would have never heard of McClatchy, either. (We use Knight Ridder because it already had a bureau in Baghdad before the chain was bought by the McClatchy Co.)

I explained that it’s one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States. It owns the Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Kansas City Star.

“I know the Miami Herald, he said. I used to live there. But I never heard of Knight Ridder.” He began to chuckle, pronouncing the company as Knight Rider. Perhaps his chuckles stemmed from memories of the 1980s television show “Night Rider.” He then seemed to mock us.

We couldn’t call for an escort, because he wouldn’t let us switch on our cell phones. (Cell phone batteries need to be removed at most checkpoints.) If we wanted to use our cell phones, we would have to make the far walk beyond the barricades and razor wire. We would have to put ourselves in danger by standing out in the middle of downtown Baghdad where I could become a potential target. (As required, I was wearing my body armour, despite the heat.)

With nothing to lose I decided to get pushy.

I asked him how he could not possibly know that Knight Ridder was one of the country’s largest newspaper chains. I told him that we’re bigger than the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times.

“I’m from Atlanta. I only know the Journal,” he said.

“I thought you said you also knew the Miami Herald,” I retorted.

“We’re bigger than the Journal,” I replied. “You never heard of Knight Ridder?”

He didn’t want to be embarrassed. He already looked irritated. He asked me if I knew the number of the military’s media office.

“I would if you’d let me switch on my phone,” I snapped. “What’s the use of these media badges if people like you aren’t going to honor them? Is this for nothing? Why don’t you call? That’s your job, isn’t it?” I made it known that I was jotting down his name.

My security man was struggling with a smirk on his face. He knew my plan. I was going to bully my way back into the Green Zone.

The man with the gun glowered as I continued my barrage of protests. The Ugandan soldiers were oblivious to the commotion, despite the growing line behind me.

The American soldier called another soldier on his radio to ask if he had ever heard of “Knight Ridder.”

To my relief, the voice said that, yes, Knight Ridder is one of the country’s biggest newspaper companies, that it owned many of the country’s largest newspapers.

The soldier in front of us explained the situation to his colleague. The voice on the other side suggested that we be let through, that the media office would only instruct him to simply confirm if the pictures on our media badges matched the ones on our shoulders.

When you’ve got nothing to lose, I told my security officer, you do what it takes. He nodded in agreement.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:33 PM

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