Bloggers Welcome Back Woodruff With Tears and Tantrums

The vast majority of bloggers were moved by To Iraq and Back.

Today bloggers welcomed back Bob Woodruff, the ABC News anchor who was seriously injured while reporting in Iraq, with tears and tantrums.

To Iraq and Back, the hourlong documentary that chronicled Woodruff’s January 2006 wounding and recovery, and investigated the Department of Veterans Affairs’ handling of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, aired last night.

The broadcast began with background on Woodruff’s assignment in Iraq, bringing viewers up to the moment an IED detonated next to the Iraqi armored vehicle in which Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were traveling. We heard from Woodruff’s family and colleagues, and saw in great detail the extent of his injuries (the left side of Woodruff’s skull had been destroyed), before he slowly came to life again.

The second half of the broadcast put a recovered Woodruff back in journalist mode, as he followed soldiers with TBIs in heartbreaking detail. Woodruff interviewed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, advocates and doctors in an attempt to discover why so many soldiers were not as lucky in their recovery as he has been.

Most bloggers were thrilled by Woodruff’s return, astounded by his recovery and impressed by his reporting. In her MySpace blog, Diana called the documentary “eye-opening, emotional and heart-wrenching.” She added, “This documentary can be both the catalyst and magnet for all related medical issues stemming from deployment to Iraq.”

Thoughts on… agrees, writing, “We need to focus on the men and women coming home with this injury and make sure they get the help they need — after all they would not have had this happen if they were not protecting our country.”

Some were inspired to act. “I really feel a need to go volunteer at the VA hospital now, or something. Anything to help these people,” writes the blogger paintchipped.

Others weren’t so moved. “Yes, I’m glad he is alive but it saddens me that we can’t give the same kind of recognition and coverage to even a fraction of our soldiers on the ground who were not as fortunate,” says Framboise of Portland Independent Media Center. “Mr. Woodruff is a celebrity reporter. He spent relatively little time in a combat zone, embedded with troops. If he were a regular U.S. soldier, I don’t think we’d be seeing images of him, or hearing anything about him.”

Some only jeered the commercials. “In the very first pod of commercials for this documentary was one for a product that helps limit incontinence. It featured a woman wearing a large sandwich board sign reading, ‘I have a bladder control problem’ in giant letters,” complains BC Beat. “It was jarring to see a commercial that inappropriate placed into a program like this. Couldn’t someone at ABC have decided this sponsor — or at least this commercial — was way out of place?”

Bloggers also mentioned the relatively weak response from media commentators. “Political weblogs seem mighty quiet over the Bob Woodruff special,” remarks dangerousmeta!. “Talk radio has touched on it, but I haven’t found much else. There’s much positive, but I was looking for the negative, to see how those opposed to painting rosy scenarios over Iraq would mount an attack.”

Yet the vast majority of bloggers were moved by Woodruff’s report. In her MySpace blog, Allison admits, “It tore out my heart, did a tap dance on it and then left me reeling.”

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Christina Hernandez is a CJR intern.