Let’s not forget that war can be an abstraction to politicians, but not to those who fight and live through it. To soldiers and conflict-zone residents, war is bloody and devastating, and it’s hard for news consumers to realize this when the stories they read are stuffed with bloodless clichés. Conflict reporters often are the only neutral parties on hand during a skirmish; if they don’t accurately report an event, it might never be reported at all. If a society wants to support a war, so be it. But, as journalists, let’s do our best to report these conflicts with precision and clarity, so that people know exactly what they’re supporting.

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Judith Matloff is a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is a veteran foreign correspondent, who teaches a course on conflict reporting at Columbia, and is the author of Fragments of a Forgotten War and Home Girl.