Va. Paper Sends 1st War Reporter Since 1860s

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By: Joe Strupp

When Rex Bowman of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch joins a U.S. Marine unit in Kuwait next week to cover the likely invasion of Iraq, he’ll not only be doing his job, he’ll also be making history.

Bowman, 41, will become the first Times-Dispatch war correspondent since the Civil War, according to editors. As a history buff and devout son of the south, the Virginia native appreciates the link to the Confederate past. “It’s nice to be part of Virginia history,” said Bowman, who normally works out of the paper’s Roanoke bureau. “I can only view it as an honor.”

Times-Dispatch Managing Editor Louise Seals said Media General Inc.’s flagship paper chose to break with its usual practice and put a reporter into potential combat because the pending war is a major story. “We wanted to send a good writer to a place with a lot of good stories,” he said. “You have the first person reporting of a wonderful story-teller.”

Bowman also will be the only embedded reporter from Media General’s 25 daily papers, requiring him to report for a mass audience. “I’m looking out for soldiers from all of our readership papers,” he said Friday while finalizing travel plans that have him flying out Sunday. “It puts an onus on me, but it won’t be cumbersome.”

Another challenge will be the fact that Bowman has gone through none of the military or survival training that most of the embedded reporters have received in recent months. He will have a biochemical protective suit and gas mask, however. Bowman also has had military training as a U.S. Air Force veteran, who served in Germany between 1979 and 1983.

“I do vaguely recall how to put on a gas mask,” he quipped.

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