War Correspondents Share Their Advice for Young Journalists

Combat photojournalists share their experiences.
Left to right: Paul Villagran (moderator), Melissa Field, Sig Christenson, William Nichols and Brien Aho.

By Nathalie Cohetero
nac75@txstate.edu

During Texas State University’s annual Mass Comm Week, an award-winning panel of photojournalists offered insight Monday into the world of combat reporting.

Among the experienced combat photojournalists were Brien Aho, Sig Christenson and William Nichols.

Nichols, a military photojournalist and retired Air Force colonel, said he believes the photographs a reporter takes can affect the public in many ways.

“Even something as small as a photo can make a huge impact in some lives,” said Nichols. “So take as much as you can when you’re out in the field.”

Nichols recalled a time when a soldier’s family reached out to him because of photos he’d taken of their son. Without any other communication with their son, it was the only way the family knew he was still alive.

An engaged audience listens to war stories.
An engaged audience listens to the war stories of combat photojournalists.

Sig Christenson, a senior reporter covering the military and veterans affairs beat for the San Antonio Express-News, credited some of his success to his ability to compete in a demanding field.

“Information travels at the speed of light,” said Christenson. “You’re competing not just with local newspapers but also with big names like Dallas Morning News, New York Times and LA Times. Your job is to tell the story fast and remain unbiased.”

Renee Martin, a public relations senior at Texas State, attended the event in hopes of learning more about the subject.

“I now have a better understanding of combat photography than I ever thought I would,” said Martin. “Listening to the war stories and the advice of the photojournalists was very interesting. As a public relations major, I’ve had to work with reporters and they touched on the dynamics of that working relationship. I hope I’ll be able to work with reporters like the panelists throughout my career.”

Paul Villagran, a public relations lecturer at Texas State and moderator of the event, said that war is part of life, and although he’s sure the panelists would wish that not be true, the story needs to be told to the public regardless.

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