Apr 2010

...and Hello Again!

The New York Times broke some very good news late today:

April 30, 2010, 7:03 PM
CNN Is ‘Standing With’ Stressed-Out War Correspondent

Michael Ware has spent so much of the past nine years reporting from war zones for Time magazine and CNN that it’s almost like he’s a citizen of Iraq.

That experience, he says, has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. In an interview on Thursday, he said that CNN wanted him back in the field before he felt he was ready and, as a result, he was under the impression that he had been released from his contract. “I required further time off than I think CNN was able to give,” he said.

But there may have been a misunderstanding. On Friday CNN said that Mr. Ware is still employed by the network, disputing an unsourced report on a blog that he was no longer working for the network and that the disorder was a reason.

“We will continue to support him during this time,” the cable news network said in a statement. The network said it was “rightly regarded as an industry leader” in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that it offers support services to past and present employees.

Mr. Ware’s agent, Richard Leibner, said, “They are clearly standing with him now.”

In a telephone interview from Brisbane, Australia, where he currently lives, Mr. Ware said he first met with a company psychologist two years ago to talk about post-traumatic stress. But he continued to report from conflict zones. At news outlets like CNN, deployment to dangerous locations is always voluntary.

In an interview, Mr. Ware talked openly about how hard it can be to return from war to home, calling the homecoming “beyond harsh.”

“It’s a struggle to learn how to fit back in,” he said, “and yet, that’s precisely what’s expected of you — to fit back in.”

He said he started a three-month book leave in February. Before long his bosses were itching to get him back in the field. “They wanted me back straight away,” he said. He submitted a request for further unpaid leave, apparently without citing P.T.S.D. as a reason. When that request was denied, Mr. Ware said he believed he had been effectively unemployed. But his agent said the CNN bosses were not fully aware of his current condition.

CNN said in the statement Friday, “We hope that when he is ready and able he will be back doing what he does best.”

Mr. Ware has talked publicly about his post-traumatic stress (though not on CNN’s airwaves) and he said he would continue to do so. And he certainly doesn’t rule out a return to conflict in the future.

“I still miss war,” he said.

This is a win-win-win for all concerned -- Michael, CNN, and the audience.

Welcome “back,” Michael!

Farewell to CNN

I learned today that Michael has parted ways with CNN.

In addition to having taken a break to work on his book, it is no secret that he has been grappling with PTSD, brought on from the hellish years he worked in Baghdad. Unfortunately, when he needed more time off in order to deal with things, his request was denied. So he will not be returning.

While it is a huge loss for us (and for CNN) I am extremely relieved that he chose to take care of his own needs first. And while I sincerely hope that he will return to US television someday on another network, it is far more important that he gets the care he needs.

I will, of course, continue to keep track of whatever work he does -- his book or other writings, or if he makes appearances here or in Australia.

When I started this site, he was working for Time magazine. I was delighted when he transitioned to CNN, knowing that it meant we would get more of his remarkable work. And now there will be a new chapter in his career to look forward to ... but only after this brief intermission.

If you care to express your opinion about this, I welcome you to come over to
the blog to do so, and also hope you will let CNN know what you're thinking.

The latest info

One of our blog regulars, Nina, wrote to CNN last week and asked for an update on Michael's return. They advised her that he is currently working on his book (yay!) and will return "soon." And yesterday a tweet from the BackStory gang said that we can expect to see more from him "this summer."