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Journalism Excellence
Tom Lasseter
Baghdad Correspondent
Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

Whether filing a heartbreaking story about an infantry company’s deadly, bloody fight in Fallujah or getting U.S. generals to acknowledge that they foresaw no military way to defeat the insurgency, Tom Lasseter’s reporting is one reason that Knight Ridder is acknowledged by many to be the leader in Iraqi war coverage.

The 29-year-old has learned to make his way in two very different worlds – that of the American military and that of the Iraqi people – and to report on both as part of his coverage of the insurgency.

“The cultures and customs of the military are different than those of the Iraqi population at large,” he said. “In an Iraqi home, you have to show deference to the head of the house and drink tea before you start talking about anything. With the military, I learned that the perception of the grunts on the ground is different than higher-ups, and they’re more likely to be open.”

Lasseter’s groundbreaking reporting has been cited by other news organizations, including Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Among his exclusives: Marines near Ramadi had stopped patrolling large areas of insurgent-infested Anbar province because it was too dangerous; the growth of Sunni and Shiite vigilantism; evidence that Iraqi police have formed death squads to kidnap and torture Sunni Muslim men, crimes that no U.S. or Iraqi government agency was investigating.

But he doesn’t spend much time thinking about how his most recent story is being received in the United States. “The important thing is what the next story is going to be,” he says. “They’re all important. I hope to do a good job on the one I just reported and then do a good job on the next one.”

He understands that there is “fatigue” among the American public about the war. “For my family in Atlanta, life goes on, they have other things to worry about. I hope they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about death and destruction in Iraq,” he said. “But I hope our policy-makers do, and I hope there’s a lively and robust dialogue about what’s going on there.”

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