First Reporter From Black Newspaper Embeds with Troops in Iraq

By: Anna Crane

Baltimore-based Afro-American Newspapers is sending reporter Leonard Sparks to the front line in Iraq, making it the first black newspaper with a reporter on the ground in the war zone. Sparks will be embedded with an Army unit starting Oct. 20, and will stay for about a month covering the lives of African American soldiers and the war they have been fighting.

Writing for both the Baltimore and Washington D.C. editions of the Afro-American, Sparks said that he hopes he can provide his readers with a fresh perspective that is currently missing from the media landscape.

?For our mostly black readers, we owe it to them to write about some of the black soldiers who are stationed out there,? said Sparks. ?And to the soldiers, we certainly owe it to them to write about what they?re going through.?

In addition to news stories for Afro-American’s two weekly editions, Sparks will also give daily updates through the papers? Web site. The updates, titled ?Today in Baghdad,? will include audio and video feeds as well as stories from Sparks.

In its 114-year history, the Afro-American has earned a reputation as the premier source of war coverage for African American publications. It was the only black newspaper to send reporters to war zones during World War II and the Vietnam War.

When asked why there are no other black publications with reporters in Iraq, Sparks said he isn?t really quite sure, but imagines that it has something to do with the general financial state of newspapers in the U.S.

?Anything that hits newspapers, in general, is even more exacerbated in black newspapers, which have really taken a hit in recent years,? said Sparks. ?I just don?t think papers have the finances to actually be able to set someone up over there with the insurance, the body armor, the plane fare, the lodging. All that sort of adds up.?

In June, Sparks met with some of the soldiers that he will be stationed with while they were in training. Anxious to meet up with them in Iraq, he is interested to see how those soldiers might be different outside of the training environment.

?I am excited,? said Sparks. ?That?s probably the one emotion I do feel.?

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