Born in Geneva, OH. Education: Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, M.A. Hobbies and other interests: Scuba diving, surfing, hiking, biking, teaching.
Home—CA. E-mail—[email protected]
Journalist and correspondent, covering wars and disasters for national television networks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, Kosovo, Indonesia, and New Orleans, LA, 2000—. Freelance solo journalist, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC) and Microsoft/NBC (MSNBC) in Asia, 2004; correspondent, Cable News Network (CNN); war news correspondent, Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, beginning 2005; correspondent, People of the Web, Yahoo! News, beginning 2007. Producer, NBC News; worked as producer in local, cable, and network news, including American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC) This Week with David Brinkley and NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Broadcast lecturer in journalism, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, 2000-01.
Edward R. Murrow Award, NBC, 1999, for coverage of the war in Kosovo; California Faculty Association, Distinguished Lecturer, 2000-01; Payne Award for Ethics, University of Oregon, 2005; Rave Award for Best Blog, Wired magazine, 2005; Daniel Pearl Award for courage and integrity in journalism, Los Angeles Press Club, 2006; best Web site in online journalism citation, National Press Club, 2006-07; Webby Award for best news documentary video, 2006-07; National Headliners Award for independent online journalism, 2006-07; InterActive award for excellence in international reporting, 2006-07; "Web Celeb 25" citation, Forbes, 2007; "50 Coolest Websites" citation, Time magazine, 2007.
In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, HarperCollins/Perennial (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of monthly media column in New York Times alternative weekly. Author of Web logs KevinSites.net, Yahoo! News-affiliated Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, and People of the Web. Also contributor of numerous articles to periodicals.
Pioneering solo journalist Kevin Sites established his reputation as a war correspondent working for the established news media, but in 2005 he became one of the first journalists to move strictly to the Internet, joining Yahoo! News to create a Web site devoted to coverage of war zones around the world. His book In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars is a tribute to the work that made his Yahoo! News-affiliated Web site Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone one of the most visited Web sites on the Internet. The Web site "reported stories that often were under-covered or overlooked by mainstream media for Yahoo!'s global audience of 400 million users," explained the author's profile on his home page. "In response the Los Angeles Press Club awarded Sites the esteemed 2006 Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism." Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, the profile continued, "also won the prestigious Webby Award in 2007 for coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict and was identified as the best online journalism site by both the National Press Club and the National Headliner Awards."
Even before he started practicing solo journalism, Sites earned a reputation as a formidable reporter. He received the Edward R. Murrow Award in 1999, for his coverage of the war in Kosovo, and served as the California Faculty Association's Distinguished Lecturer during the 2000-01 academic year. Sites's name recognition quotient was boosted in 2003 when, while working as a nonembedded reporter for the Cable News Network (CNN) in Iraq, he and his team were seized by insurgents on their way to Tikrit. Sites's team was threatened with death, but their Kurdish translator secured their release—and Sites was even able to recover his equipment the following day. The following year, Sites reported for the National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC), embedded with the Third Battalion, First Regiment of the U.S. Marines. During this assignment, Sites videotaped a Marine shoot and kill a wounded Iraqi insurgent sheltered in a mosque in the city of Fallujah. "After the video's airing," according to the author's profile on Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, "Sites was both praised as a journalist willing to reveal the harsh realities of war—and vilified as a traitor to both the Marine unit in which he was embedded and to his country."
Sites explained his distress over the incident he filmed in an open letter posted on the NBC News Web site. "I have never in my career been a ‘gotcha’ reporter—hoping for people to commit wrongdoings so I can catch them at it," he declared. "Immediately after the mosque incident, I told the unit's commanding officer what had happened. I shared the video with him, and its impact rippled all the way up the chain of command. Marine commanders immediately pledged their cooperation. We all knew it was a complicated story, and if not handled responsibly, could have the potential to further inflame the volatile region. I offered to hold the tape until they had time to look into [the] incident and begin an investigation—providing me with information that would fill in some of the blanks." "For those who don't practice journalism as a profession, it may be difficult to understand why we must report stories like this at all—especially if they seem to be aberrations, and not representative of the behavior or character of an organization as a whole," Sites concluded. "Our coverage of these unique events, combined with the larger perspective—will allow the truth of that situation, in all of its complexities, to begin to emerge. That doesn't make the decision to report events like this one any easier." As a result of his reporting of the Fallujah shooting, Sites received the Payne Award for Ethics from the University of Oregon and the Rave Award from Wired magazine in 2005.
Sites moved from television network news to the Internet in part because of the Fallujah incident. He told Howard Kurtz in an interview for CyberJournalist.net, "I had to explain myself through my blog at the time. … I was able to provide the nuance and further aspects and details that weren't part of my television report. And in doing so, a lot of people began to understand exactly what happened in that mosque and began to understand what the actions were that I took in reporting that." For Sites, the Internet gave him the capacity to present his experience in greater depth, with more respect for the causes and motivating factors behind the images and words he reported. His production team stayed in California, while he communicated with them through satellite phone, a laptop with a satellite modem, and a digital camera and camcorder. The result of his team's work was the Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone Web site and the book that followed it, In the Hot Zone.
"From the beginning," wrote Carly Mayberry in the Hollywood Reporter, "the goal of … Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone has been to put a human face on global conflict through the kind of intrepid reporting that can't be done with a conventional TV news crew." The basic idea was what Hollywood producers call "high concept." According to an Information Week reporter, the plan involved Sites traveling to "areas where border or territorial conflicts are taking place between government forces and organized groups. Those are areas (defined by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies) of armed conflict." Yahoo! News planned to "focus on locations where terrorism and the war on terror are central. They are likely to include: Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and South America." "It's clear that Sites sees himself as part Ernie Pyle, part Robert Capa and part Edward R. Murrow, and, in this regard, his Web site is both utterly traditional in its sensibility as well as unique and even potentially revolutionary in its focus, design and execution," declared Mark Sarvas, writing for Truthdig. "Without editors and segment producers to report to, Sites is his own man, using his laptop and satellite modem to bring us unfettered war coverage from around the world." Elizabeth Guider, a contributor to Variety, stated: "Obviously, the idea of a lone cowboy bucking so many TV news truisms—eschewing support systems, editors, researchers, fact-checkers, fat checks and perks—is refreshing, and may automatically pique the interest of that hard-to-attract younger demo."
Reviewers found In the Hot Zone to be as interesting as its Web-based predecessor, although they differed in their opinions about its impact. Sarvas stated that "Sites' book should stand as a cautionary tale, a reminder that the virtues of a compelling Web site—immediacy and impressionistic brevity—wilt and fray when pressed between the covers of a book." Carol Haggas, though, in a review for Booklist, held a different opinion, stating that Sites's "personal disclosures of doubt, anger, fear, and remorse elevate" In the Hot Zone "to an unaccustomed and singular level of soulfulness and honesty."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Sites, Kevin, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, HarperCollins/Perennial (New York, NY), 2007.
Booklist, October 15, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, p. 10.
eWeek, September 12, 2005, "Yahoo! Hires Blog Journalist for Conflict Coverage."
Hollywood Reporter, June 23, 2003, "Reporter Dials up Digital Future," author information, p. 8; September 13, 2005, "War News ‘Hot’ for Sites, Yahoo!," p. 6; May 17, 2006, Carly Mayberry, "Sites Enters Last Leg of Trek in ‘Hot Zone,’" author information, p. 23.
InformationWeek, September 12, 2005, "Yahoo!, No Longer Just an Aggregate, Hires War Correspondent; In a Move Signaling a Major Shift for the Company, Yahoo! News Is Sending a Veteran War Correspondent on a Journey to Cover Every Armed Conflict in the World within a Year."
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of In the Hot Zone.
Los Angeles Business Journal, September 19, 2005, "Foreign Correspondence," author information, p. 4.
New York Times, November 18, 2004, "Newsman Who Taped Marine Shooting Captive Keeps Silent," p. 15; November 22, 2004, "Cameraman Details Marine's Role in Mosque Shooting," p. 13.
Quill, December 1, 2007, review of In the Hot Zone, p. 4.
USA Today, April 24, 2006, "Sites Covers World Widely for the Web," p. 7.
Variety, September 19, 2005, Elizabeth Guider, "Yahoo! Sets Sites on Global Conflict," author information, p. 4.
CyberJournalist.net,http://www.cyberjournalist.net/ (July 24, 2008), Howard Kurtz, "Kevin Sites on Why He Left Network News for the Net," author interview.
Kevin Sites Home Page,http://kevinsitesreports.com (July 24, 2008), author information.
Kevin Sites MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/inthehotzone (July 24, 2008), author profile.
NBC News Web site,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ (July 24, 2008), Kevin Sites, "NBC: Kevin Sites' Letter to Marines."
Truthdig,http://www.truthdig.com/ (July 24, 2008), Mark Sarvas, review of In the Hot Zone.
Washington Post Online,http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (October 22, 2007), author interview.
Wired Online,http://www.wired.com/ (July 24, 2008), Annaliza Savage, "Video Blogger Kevin Sites Keeps One Foot in the War Zone."
Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone,http://hotzone.yahoo.com (July 24, 2008), author profile.
Yodel Anecdotal,http://ycorpblog.com/ Farah Ravon, review of In the Hot Zone.