* My Profile My Galleries My Networks

Neophyte advice--embed in Afghanistan


I’m just heading out on my first embed (ever) in Marja, Afghanistan, and would appreciate any sage advice from more experienced types about tracking down stories and getting them out there (I write for a couple sites regularly but am also freelancing). I’m pretty good on advice re: security and conditions in-country, having spoken to a bunch of current and ex-military before heading over, but I don’t know many journos (especially war correspondents) so am hoping to get some more pointers in that field.

I know this is a fairly open-ended question, but hopefully any answers will not only be useful to me but others down the line who find themselves in the same position.

Thanks in advance for any and all help! Cheers,


by Lawrence Dabney at 2011-11-04 05:26:11 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

welcome to lightstalkers!

this is a question that is asked many many times, if you do a search through past posts on the subject you should find answers to many of your questions. j.

by John Robinson | 04 Nov 2011 05:11 | Durban, South Africa | | Report spam→
Hey L, not clear on something—-if you are on an embed, shouldn’t you already be lined out on stories for whoever you are with already? I mean to go that far—-into Afghanistan—-and get in the middle of it all and then ask for help on stories, it just seems to me to be poor planning and really dangerous?

I read a post on your blog where at the airport in Kabul you explain first thing how you went off with some types you thought were cops and then got a change up from some anglos that took pitty on you and got you to the base safely——there is something about loosing your passport and then getting your camera equipment stolen? Your blog reads like you are a little bit cowboy and very naive to be honest—-I don’t see any journalism dna there.

It’s bad enough if you get hurt your self but it seems like bad news for anyone around you if you are in country for 3 days maybe and you have all that going on and from what you describe, no place to get stories and I wondering where you are going to sell what you get?

Honestly, I wish the best for you and I don’t want to be the wet rag but you have put yourself out there and its for all to see—-I am thinking this is a joke maybe?

Most likely not the response you were thinking of so I hope you can fill us in—-in your about section on the blog it says “war corespondent” already and you are only three days into it for what I can tell…I hope I am wrong and just have missed it or not getting it?

Stay safe and get back to us with whats up——remember you are representing a group that depends on you to do a good, straight, clean job where you won’t make it difficult for everyone else that follows you because you don’t know what you are doing.


by David Bro | 04 Nov 2011 06:11 | orange county, california, United States | | Report spam→

by John Robinson | 05 Nov 2011 15:11 | Durban, South Africa | | Report spam→

Thanks for the advice, I’ve had a look at some but I’ll do some more searching. Really appreciate the warm welcome—sorry if this query was a bit redundant!

To be honest I’m not sure if I’m navigating the site correctly—I can’t seem to find a whole lot of recent posts, but the home page indicates there’s a lot of activity going on. Maybe you could provide me some pointers on hunting through discussion boards?


I appreciate your sentiments here, I really do. But you’ve seriously misread the situation. I was trying to look for help with pushing off a career and not be overly cocky in the process but I guess you took that as a sign of weakness and/or ineptitude. Apologies if I gave you the wrong impression.

I’ve got my outlets, stories, security, everything set up pretty well, actually—just wanted pointers on improving on all of that. I guess you’re more looking for a newbie to piss on. No offense, but I’m not really into that. If you’re feeling a little threatened that a freelancer who’s new to things can go out and do this and call himself whatever, well, I guess we all have our insecurities. You go ahead and keep your journalism dna and I’ll keep on rolling with the occasional obstacle and moving on. I’m sure both of us will be happier that way.

by Lawrence Dabney | 08 Nov 2011 15:11 (ed. Nov 8 2011) | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Lawrence, it’s admirable that you have returned to comment after a very small challenge of what you are about—-most would not have bothered, so that shows something to me at least—-but comparatively, the questions or doubts I am posing are very much on the soft tender and light side of what I have seen on lightstalkers across several posts, spread over a couple of years—-so your response is a little caustic and I am left wondering how you will handle confrontations as an embedded photojournalist on the ground in a conflict zone?

Our discussion is mild as well as over the internet and between two people who have never met and its curious to me that you attribute so much attitude to a line of questioning, describing perceived insecurities, threatening and pissing on —what are you going to do when some top sergeant or PIO screams at you? I think you are better off just answering the doubts and questions I am posing to you in regular way—-if you really don’t care then why get so cranky about it?

Remember Lawrence, you came here and presented yourself --with questions and no real explanation or real involvement with anyone on a website for working news gatherers—-as working media, most here are presented on assignment with all types of people and situations every day—-and within our time and access we are expected, mandated by ethics we have garnered thru professional associations, on the job experience, study, mentoring and direction from editors—-the habits essential to seek out a position by which we can take our photos that best illustrate, in an impartial way, the truth of a story at its core—-so I went to your blog where you detail your misadventures upon arrival in Afghanistan—-where it’s not difficult to arrive at some doubts which lead me to some critical questions—-and coupled with the on ground fact that it’s a war zone and military personnel are loosing their lives if not legs and limbs in combat action—- if not Afghan civilian nationals loosing their homes, all their possessions along with family members dead or maimed—-I am left wondering, what are you doing there and I have asked you as much—-what’s the big deal?

That said, a couple of days ago I went to your bog and read some entries—-I enjoyed the writing and it’s well done; you definitely write well, although blogs aren’t really meant to be news but a single opinion that relates a specific or generalized experience described by the writer.

There is plenty of room for writers and freelancers like you and all the rest of us—-there are literally millions on millions of stories every day and you don’t have to go to Afghanistan to find them——so what am I getting at?

Its not someone like you, describing yourself as a newbie, taking away work but taking away an opportunity for the rest of everyone that is making a living in journalism and working on real stories that will be sold for real money and support a contributors work so he/she can continue to do it—-It’s not a fine line but a huge gap where the mistakes you are working on cause that slim door of access to be closed just enough where legitimate good story angles just can’t get through and it’s a lost opportunity that we can’t get back—-it’s the top sergeant that will think twice before he lets a PJ on a MAC flight on the sly or worse, even when he can let you on but doesn’t because its not worth the hassle of a possible tantrum from some photographer pain in the ass.

My caution is that the mistakes you describe in your blog get worked out long before you step into the wilds of Afghanistan so all the others that follow you don’t pay for your mistakes—-it would be very cavalier of you to not take everyone else into consideration as you move forward to iron out your mistakes. I don’t have to be overseas to see it on a weekly basis just covering what I do now—-caution and fear which translates to precious time delays you can never get back—-if not —-just not getting a damn good story that needs to be told and I can get paid for.

There is so much more to it than what I have said here; I am sincere in wishing you the best in your work and hope you stay safe, please just think about what I have said and move forward keeping it in mind now—-thinking back on it two years from now and contemplating what you should have done will not do anyone any good and its too precious a position to be in to not take great care in it now—-so with that—-

Good luck and good hunting.

Ciao, bro

by David Bro | 08 Nov 2011 19:11 | orange county, california, United States | | Report spam→
Hey L,

I am a dog person, so I am curious what you get on your war dog story so post a link when you have it up somewhere.


Edit>>>November 20, 2011>>>After the censorship lock Mr. Dabney has imposed on his post>>>>

This to me smells like what social anthropologists describe as the “everyone gets a trophy just for trying” culture that can be found in the millineal generation so, there really isn’t anything else to say but really when a body of work is really judged for what it is, the evidence for what it certainly isn’t is just as clear and often more telling of what an individual is truly NOT capable of doing, talented or not—-its unattractive and quite ugly, like a parent screaming beyond control at a child over something trivial in public—-it’s hard to look at—-

by David Bro | 08 Nov 2011 20:11 (ed. Nov 21 2011) | orange county, california, United States | | Report spam→
David, mate, nobody’s fooled.

As it is I’m busier than hell right now and have limited internet access, so I’m just going to lock this up and leave it be. DFTT and all that…

Best of luck to you mate.

by Lawrence Dabney | 09 Nov 2011 03:11 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→

More about sponsorship→


Lawrence Dabney, Journalist Lawrence Dabney
(AK Diplomacy)
Marja , Afghanistan
John Robinson, Photographer John Robinson
(works with light)
Pigeon Club , South Africa
David Bro, freelance editorial David Bro
freelance editorial
Orange County , United States ( LAX )


Top↑ | RSS/XML | Privacy Statement | Terms of Use | support@lightstalkers.org / ©2004-2015 November Eleven