Yahoo Begins Reporting News, Hires War Correspondent

Yahoo News is shifting from its role as a news aggregator to one of news gatherer. The company says it is sending a veteran war correspondent on a journey to

September 12, 2005

3 Min Read
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Yahoo News is sending a veteran war correspondent on a journey to cover every armed conflict in the world within a year.

Yahoo Inc. announced Monday that it is launching Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. The accomplished combat journalist will embark on the solo trip Sept. 26. He will combine the key multimedia elements, including exclusive video feed, text and audio, to narrate stories about the people and issues involved in armed conflicts.

The move signals a major shift for Yahoo, which until now has been an aggregator of news from more than 100 outlets. Yahoo News, which features a news search function that scours more than 8,000 news sources on the Internet, said its goal is to set new standards for gathering and delivering news.

Sites is a freelance reporter who has covered war zones in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia for a variety of outlets including: CNN, NBC, ABC and MSNBC. He was captured and threatened with death before being released in Iraq. His war blog" features news from Chiapas, Mexico, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. While working as a producer for NBC News, he received an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of Kosovo.

Last year, Sites' work gained worldwide attention after he shot footage of Marines shooting an apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a Fallujah mosque. In 2003, CNN touched off a media debate when it told Sites to stop blogging.For Yahoo News, Sites is being encouraged to use a variety of media forms, promoting transparency and immediacy. Users will have the ability to interact online, watch as Sites immerses himself in dangerous environments, and link to resources related to the news.

"This project is the most important thing I will do in my life," Sites said in a prepared statement. "It's an incredible opportunity to develop the next step in the evolution of journalism, and to tell a different set of stories more completely. We believe this project will attract new audiences that want to go beyond their current news choices."

Larry Braun, who heads Yahoo's media group, said the company hopes users become personally invested in Sites' experience. The site also aims to provide its audience with news that isn't making it into mainstream media outlets.

Yahoo News has pledged that the Hot Zone will adhere to ethical standards, outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists. The standards, listed on SPJ's Web site, focus on truthfulness, independence, accountability and minimizing harm. Hot Zone quotes SPJ's preamble stating that "we strongly believe … that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy."

Irwin Gratz, SPJ board president, said in an interview Monday that Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone is an "intriguing development" in an industry struggling to retain its audience."As someone who takes a big-picture look at journalism, I always welcome other efforts by other organizations to put more money and resources into journalism," he said.

Gratz said that nothing compares to daily newspapers' ability to set news agendas, earn revenue, support teams of reporters and editors, and provide local coverage. However, if readership continues to decline, something is likely to replace them, he said.

"You could look at what Yahoo is doing as perhaps a tiny, baby step towards becoming a real player in the near future since some of the money and resources are now flowing their way," he said.

Sites will travel to areas where border or territorial conflicts are taking place between government forces and organized groups. Those are areas (defined by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies) of armed conflict. Yahoo News plans to focus on locations where terrorism and the war on terror are central. They are likely to include: Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.

He will carry digital cameras, a laptop and satellite phones to communicate with a production team in California.0

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