CNN has hired a former Iraq prisoner of war, Ron Young, as a special contributor to help add a troop’s eye perspective to its war coverage.
Young, from the Atlanta area where CNN is based, was shot down over Iraq in an Apache helicopter in March 2003 and taken prisoner. He and his co-pilot, David Williams of Orlando, Fla., were released three weeks later.
Young has become a motivational speaker and is writing a book. He said since leaving the Army, he’s “looking for new ways of showing support” for the troops still there.
“I’ve lost quite a few friends over there, and it’s my duty to make sure that support for the military doesn’t waver and people understand the day-to-day sacrifices that people over there make,” he said.
Most television news networks have former military commanders working as consultants to help explain troop maneuvers, but Young’s hiring is something different.
“He’s just a great communicator when it comes to explaining his experiences,” said Sue Bunda, CNN senior vice president. “He helps people understand what the troops that are deployed are going through.”
Bunda said she isn’t concerned about Young being a cheerleader for the military, since CNN isn’t hiring him as an impartial journalist.
Young keeps in e-mail contact with several of his former colleagues still in Iraq, and can provide a troop’s perspective of what’s going on there, she said. With fewer journalists embedded now with the military, that on-the-ground viewpoint is harder to get, she said.
CNN wouldn’t say what Young is being paid.
He’s been hired only from Memorial Day weekend through July 4, something of a tryout period for both sides. CNN wants Young’s commentary for the scheduled June 30 turnover of control to the Iraqis, she said.