ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt suffered serious head wounds in Iraq yesterday when the military convoy they were traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb.
Both men were in stable condition yesterday after surgery, and were being flown to Germany for further treatment.
''We take this as good news, but the next few days will be critical," David Westin, president of ABC News, said in a statement yesterday.
Their injuries underscore the increasing dangers of reporting from Iraq, where 61 journalists and 23 media support staff members have been killed since March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York.
Also this month, Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelancer for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped by Iraqi militants who demanded a release of female prisoners in the country. Her condition is not known.
''In terms of the casualty figures, it's one of the most dangerous conflicts for the media in modern history," said Joel Campagna, Middle East and North Africa project coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Woodruff, 44, and Vogt, 46, both experienced war correspondents, had been embedded with the Fourth Infantry Division, according to ABC. They had been traveling near the town of Taji, 25 miles north of Baghdad, in a US armored Humvee, but had transferred to an Iraqi mechanized vehicle at the head of their convoy before the bombing, which was followed by small-arms fire.
Both men, who according to ABC were standing in the vehicle's back hatch and were taping, were wearing body armor, helmets, and ballistic glasses. Woodruff suffered shrapnel wounds to the head and upper body. Vogt was hit by shrapnel in the head and suffered a broken shoulder.
ABC reported on ''World News Tonight Sunday" last night that Woodruff and Vogt's producer spoke to both of them as they were being transferred to the US military hospital in Balad, Iraq, and assured them they would receive treatment.
Both underwent emergency surgery yesterday at the hospital in Balad. They were being flown last night to Germany's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which receives all of the seriously wounded US military personnel and civilians from coalition countries in Iraq.
The Landstuhl medical center has a reputation for saving the lives of people badly injured in Iraq.
''The word on the street is, if you make it to Landstuhl, you're going to make it," Army Colonel W. Bryan Gamble, a physician and commanding officer of the medical center, said in an interview with the Globe on Thursday.
Woodruff was named co- anchor of ''World News Tonight," along with ''20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas, in December, four months after veteran anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. ABC executives touted the dual appointment as an opportunity to imbue the newscast with more in-depth reporting from the field. For their first broadcast on Jan. 3, Vargas anchored from New York and Woodruff reported from Iran.
Woodruff, who has four children, has also reported for ABC from such countries as Pakistan and North Korea. He recently anchored the weekend edition of ''World News Tonight." Vogt, a father of three daughters, is a 15-year ABC veteran with extensive war experience. In 1992 he was sitting beside ABC News producer David Kaplan when Kaplan was fatally shot in Bosnia.
Roadside bombs -- or ''improvised explosive devices" -- like the one that injured Woodruff and Vogt have become the leading killer of US troops in Iraq and are responsible for a growing majority of injuries. They are also among the biggest fears of journalists who are embedded with the US military to cover the war.
Television reporters and photographers are often the most at risk, since their need to capture the scene visually drives them to get closer to the action and to opt out of some of the available protection.
''Our situation is unique," said Richard Engel, an NBC News television reporter who has been based in Baghdad since before the war began. ''We need pictures, which means we often have to be outside military vehicles, hanging out of turrets, standing in the back of open vehicles."
That appeared to be a major factor in Woodruff's and Vogt's injuries, said Martha Raddatz, ABC News' senior White House correspondent.
''I don't think this was an issue of armor, at this point," Raddatz told the Globe in a telephone interview. ''Yes, the US vehicles have better armor than the Iraqi vehicles. But it was that Bob and Doug were in the hatch. They had heads up. They were above the vehicle."
ABC reported last night that the convoy was equipped with IED jammers that would jam a signal from a remote-controlled device.
The bomb was apparently detonated from a wire in the ground.
Embedded reporters are subject to the same risks as the troops with whom they are assigned, whether they are roadside bombs that can make mundane supply runs deadly or heavy fire during an operation such as the battle of Fallujah.
At least four journalists died during the initial invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003: Atlantic Monthly editor Michael Kelly, who died in a Humvee accident; two European journalists killed in an artillery strike; and NBC's David Bloom, who died of a brain hemorrhage.
Since then, only one embedded journalist has been killed: Jeremy Little, a freelance soundman from Australia working for NBC News, who was injured in a grenade attack in Fallujah in June 2003 and died the next month of his injuries. Veteran Globe foreign correspondent Elizabeth Neuffer was killed in a car crash in Iraq in May 2003. She was not embedded with US troops.
Before yesterday, the worst injury that an embedded reporter suffered and survived occurred in December 2003, when Time reporter Michael Weisskopf and award-winning Boston-born photographer James Nachtwey were riding in a Humvee in Baghdad. A grenade came through the window, and when Weisskopf picked it up to throw it out, it exploded, blowing off his hand. A military officer later said Weisskopf had saved the lives of everyone in the vehicle.
Embedded reporters do not carry weapons or wear military uniforms. They provide their own helmets and flak jackets. They are generally able to report everything they see and hear if it does not give away details of future operations. They sign release forms acknowledging the risks; the military provides them the same medical treatment it would to its injured troops.
Troops and embedded reporters cooperate as a matter of necessity to keep each other safe during operations. That reliance has led some to question whether embedding undercuts objectivity.
But many journalists have felt that becoming ''embeds" is the only way to cover large sections of Iraq that would otherwise be inaccessible, said Campagna, of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
News organizations have also questioned whether to keep reporters in Iraq, Campagna said, given the increased sense that journalists' status as noncombatants does not protect them from harm.
''It's a topic that has been regularly debated by the media. They have concluded that there is still an ability to cover this story with an amount of acceptable risk," he said.
''The alternative is knowing less and having less independent information about what's happening in Iraq at our disposal."
Kevin Cullen of the Globe staff contributed reporting from Landstuhl, Germany. Diedtra Henderson of the Globe staff contributed from Washington. Thanassis Cambanis of the Globe staff also contributed. Cambanis and Barnard are the Globe's Middle East bureau chiefs.