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NBC Beirut Bureau Chief to Receive Medill Medal for Courage

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March 26, 2008 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel has been named the 2007 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism winner for "War Zone Diary," a documentary including video footage he himself recorded as a personal diary on a mini-DV camera about life in war-torn Iraq.

Awarded annually by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, the medal goes to the journalist or team of journalists working for a U.S.-based media outlet who best displays moral, ethical or physical courage in pursuit of a story.

Engel's "War Zone Diary," which first aired on MSNBC on the fourth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq, is a rare and intimate account of the everyday realities of covering and surviving the Iraq war.

It includes compelling and emotional footage with other foreign correspondents and with U.S. soldiers, in addition to Engel's own personal chronicle. Fluent in Arabic, Engel has lived in the Middle East since 1996. While still a freelancer, he snuck into Iraq before the 2003 American invasion and at a time when most major news organizations were pulling out their staff.

"War Zone Diary" documents some of Engel's most exciting and darkest moments covering the war, and at one point observes that he could be recording his "own obituary." It also documents the increasing difficulties of covering and surviving the war and pays tribute to the Iraqi citizens upon whom Western media outlets increasingly rely to cover the news.

Medill alumnus and People magazine founding managing editor Richard Stolley served on the panel of judges that selected the 2007 Medill Medal winner. He called Engel's work a "brilliant, deeply personal story (that) defines both the qualifications for and the need for the Medill Medal."

Credits for "War Zone Diary" also include Madeleine Haeringer, producer; Elizabeth Ruksznis, associate producer; Linda Diehl and Beverly Chase, editors; Sharon Hoffman, senior producer; and Bredun Edwards, Steve O'Neil and Kevin Burke, camera.

Engel was chosen from a pool of candidates that included finalists Loretta Tofani for "American Imports, Chinese Deaths," a four-part series for the Salt Lake Tribune, and David Ridgen for "Mississippi Cold Case," MSNBC.