Often, editors will say no story is worth risking your life for. I don’t believe that. I think there are stories worth taking risks for. The way these wars have been happening in the region for so long, it produces a certain dehumanization. Such a remarkable amount of violence has been deployed in these places, so I think it is incumbent upon us as journalists to kind of recapture some of that humanity, those stories of individuals, of lives, whether they’re broken or not. That felt a part of the job in Iraq, to understand these people on their own terms, in their own context, how their lives played out in ways they never expected, and maybe shouldn’t have expected.

I don’t know if I was always successful or not, and I think that’s the frustration with journalism, the stories never match your ambition, what you want to write and say. But I was lucky, especially in 2003 and 2004, I had the full engagement of the paper, I had a story that was reportable and coverable, and I got lucky in meeting the right people and becoming a part of their lives. I do look back on it as a good time. Not a good time, but….

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Terry McDermott spent thirty years at eight newspapers, most recently at the Los Angeles Times, where he reported from more than twenty countries. He is the author of the upcoming The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.