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Hetherington, Hondros, and the risks journalists take

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Hondros was a senior photographer for Getty Images who'd covered more than a half-dozen conflicts, most notably Iraq, where his arresting images earned him the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa award in 2005.

I knew both men only slightly. The Getty Images bureau in Baghdad was at the Hamra Hotel, where the Monitor was based for the first few years of the Iraq war. I saw Hondros occasionally during those days. As for Hetherington, I chatted with him just a few weeks ago over coffee at the Uzu Hotel in Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi.

I left Benghazi over a week ago now, and in the days before I left photographers were growing nervous about the increasing volume and lethality of indirect fire from Qaddafi's troops. Was trying to make a great picture of an explosion, or a dying rebel's last moments, really worth the risk?

As a writer, I go to dangerous places, but usually limit my time at the front lines. In Libya, I went up to the fighting to have a sniff from time to time, but high-tailed it whenever mortar fire threatened to get in range. For the photographers, the luxury of piecing together what happened by visiting hospitals and interviewing survivors just isn't there. Every time I pulled back from the fighting in towns like Ras Lanuf, Brega, and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, there were photographers in my rear-view mirror.

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