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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Newsman Bob Woodruff's Biggest Story Is the Environment

An exclusive interview with the host of Planet Green's Focus Earth series.

bob woodruff journalist of planet green focus earth

In January of 2006, Americans were horrified to learn ABC's World News Tonight anchorman Bob Woodruff suffered grave injuries from a roadside Iraqi bomb. His severe brain trauma forced doctors to put the award-winning journalist into a medically induced coma for a month; shrapnel was lodged in his face, neck and back, and his skull was shattered. No one could say whether the 44-year-old father of four would walk or talk again.

Three years earlier, another high-profile media personality (and Woodruff's close pal), 39-year-old NBC news correspondent David Bloom, died from a pulmonary embolism during the initial Iraq invasion. Of course Bloom's death was mourned, but by the time Woodruff was injured, Americans were decidedly mixed about being in Iraq and distressed over the thousands of wounded and dead soldiers. For many, Woodruff's plight became personal. "He put a face on the injured," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times, calling Woodruff "the most visible wounded person in this war."

For months Woodruff defied expectations and fought his way back from extensive neuro-damage. A little over a year later, he was back on ABC News, reporting about his recovery and profiling soldiers with traumatic brain injuries. The only remnant of Woodruff's multiple injuries is mild aphasia, occasional difficulty finding the appropriate word. But that hasn't stopped the intrepid newsman from tackling the global climate change battle.

Besides continuing as an anchor for ABC News, last year Woodruff launched "Focus Earth," a weekly series on the 24/7 eco network Planet Green. "I tried for so many years to do more stories on climate change," Woodruff tells The Daily Green. "It hasn't been an easy topic to get on the news, but now you're seeing a huge outpouring of these stories." The eco-warrior continues: "I covered wars for so many years, but what happened to me means I'm still doing the international reporting, which I'm addicted to, but just not in war zones. Now it's environmental reporting."

And this new beat hasn't cramped Woodruff's travel itinerary. When we talked, he'd just returned from Indonesia, where he covered a story about garbage dumping in the oceans and deforestation. Just this past year, he trekked to Kenya, the Galapagos Islands, the Arctic and all across the United States, including West Virginia's coal country and his hometown Detroit. "Because of the Internet and media, we are now connected more closely than ever before," Woodruff says.

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