A war correspondent is a professional journalist assigned to cover events in a war zone or other areas of conflict. This is generally not an entry-level position, since the reporter is expected to provide thorough coverage while simultaneously dodging enemy fire, improvised explosive devices and other battlefield hazards. Out of thousands of professional journalists working today, only a relative handful actively volunteer for the role of war correspondent.
Some war correspondents work in field offices for newspapers or television stations, venturing out into the war zone only when it is relatively safe for the press to enter the area. Much of their time is spent interviewing military commanders or attending official press conferences arranged by the military. A war correspondent's job is not necessarily to report from the front lines, but to provide a summary of the most recent activities or speculations.
Other types of war correspondents are actually embedded in an active military unit and permitted to file reports directly from the battlefield. An embedded war correspondent can wear special insignia which designates his or her status as a non-combatant, but this doesn't always protect him or her from harm. An embedded journalist and his crew may be assigned bodyguards, but there are no guarantees of complete personal safety. An embedded war correspondent must know when it is safe to file a report and when it is better to duck and cover.
Many well-known journalists and political figures have been special war correspondents over the years. Legendary British prime minister Winston Churchill served as a war correspondent before starting his political career. Broadcast journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow also filed nightly radio reports as a war correspondent based in London during World War II. Former CBS anchor Dan Rather spent many months reporting directly from Vietnam during the late 1960s, as did future senator and vice-president Al Gore, Jr.
There are a number of modern war correspondents who have become household names as well. Christiane Amanpour, a female war correspondent who has worked for CNN and other news organizations, is famous for her live reports from war zones around the world. Lara Logan, a South African journalist currently working for CBS news, has covered events in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years. Other embedded journalists may not be as recognizable, but they have all been responsible for providing citizens back home with images and accounts of the nation's military actions.