Robert Krulwich is best known today as the co-host of NPR’s “Radiolab.” But before launching the pioneering podcast and radio show with his friend Jad Abumrad, Krulwich was a longtime correspondent for ABC and CBS News. And he was every bit as innovative in television as he has been on the radio.
On April 9, 2003, in the midst of the Iraq War, a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square was brought down. Live coverage of the event was broadcast around the world, mostly portraying it as the symbolic end to a war that would continue for more than eight years. It’s an event that has been well-scrutinized, most notably by Peter Maass in The New Yorker in 2011.
I was working at ABC’s “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” at the time. Sometime that afternoon, Jennings asked Krulwich to file a story for the show about the significance of that image. With only a few hours until air, Krulwich, his producer, Justine Schiro, and editor, Charlie Marcus, set about watching every angle they could find of the moments leading up to the statue’s coming down, making careful note of small details and chronology, and doing what they could to report it from afar.
While many news stories latched on to the narrative that jubilant crowds of Iraqis brought the statue down in celebration of their liberation, Krulwich’s story told the truth: amidst a small group of excited locals, an American military vehicle pulled it down.
The three-minute story (“The Story Behind Saddam Hussein’s Fallen Statue”), written and edited in just two hours, was prescient, precise, and compelling. To me, it’s one of the best examples of why visuals are so important in video storytelling, and a great example of innovative, smart, short-form TV news.