Kevin Sites speaking at Yahoo! about his new book
|Occupation||Author and Freelance Journalist|
Kevin Sites is an award-winning journalist and author who has spent the past decade covering global war and disaster for ABC, NBC, CNN and Yahoo! News. Dubbed by the trade press as the "granddaddy" of backpack journalists—Sites helped blaze the trail for intrepid reporters who work alone, carrying only a backpack of portable digital technology to shoot, write, edit and transmit multimedia reports from the world's most dangerous places. His first book, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars(Harper Perennial-October 2007), shares his effort to put a human face on global conflict by reporting from every major war zone in one year.
In 2009, Sites was one of four stars of the reality epic Expedition Africa, airing on History. The eight-part series followed Sites and three explorers as they retraced the journey of Henry Morton Stanley in his quest to find David Livingstone. It was this journey that allegedly ended with the famous phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
Sites, an award-winning war correspondent, author (In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars) and pioneering "backpack" journalist has covered conflict and natural disaster around the globe for the last decade.
While Sites spent most of his early career producing and reporting for television network news with staff positions at ABC, NBC and CNN , he left the networks for the Internet in 2005,hired by Yahoo! to be its first correspondent for Yahoo! News. He spent one year traveling to all the major war zones in the world, reporting for his web site Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, unique at the time for its multi-media mix of text, video and still images in its storytelling.
As an early practitioner of solo journalism/video journalism(SoJo), or backpack journalism, Sites helped to galvanize the idea of the modern, mobile digital correspondent,traveling and reporting without a crew, carrying a backpack of portable digital technology to write,videotape and transmit his multimedia reports.
Sites' assignments have brought him to nearly every region of the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe.
Sites is a guest speaker on a number of social justice and university sponsored speaking engagements, although his presentation features little of his work and mostly focuses on his own biography. Sites is not a particulary entertaining speaker and tends to use long pauses to try to impart some sense of drama to his material, particularly when the drama reflects on him. Sites makes some interesting observations on war, but the majority tend to be pithy and not well thought out. Overall audiences are left with the sense that Sites is rather full of himself and not a particularly gifted journalist.
Sites claim to fame is accidently capturing video of the killing of an Iraqi insurgent in a mosque in Falujah, a claim that has bought him some minor accolades and notoriety, but also led him to be branded a "traitor" for failing to self-censor militarily sensitive material. He also earned the emnity of Yahoo who were the sponsor of his Hot Zone series. On discovering information about some of Yahoo's business practices that he disagreed with, Sites published the information instead of bringing the matter to the attention of the senior management. Yahoo cancelled his contract. Sites was also fired for gross misconduct (duplicity) when he published his own personal news blog while employed to report for NBC.
In November 2004, as an embedded correspondent for NBC, he recorded a US Marine shooting and killing a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi captive lying on the floor in a mosque in Fallujah. After the footage was released to the television network pool, all the American television networks censored the actual shooting, while other international media outlets broadcasted the uncut version. Sites received both adulation and hate mail for taping the video. In his book, Sites says he initially supported censoring the video to avoid a possible violent backlash, but writes that he quickly realized that it was the wrong decision and helped confuse the American public by not giving them the full context of the shooting through the uncensored videotape. . A few days after the shooting, Sites reported the story again in his own personal blog, giving a detailed account of what he witnessed and explaining his reasons for releasing the video. The Marine was not charged in the shooting and further investigations became impossible when a Marine Corps jet destroyed the Mosque a few days later. A Marine spokesperson says it was not deliberately targeted...
In late 2005, Sites set out to cover every war zone in the world for Yahoo! News. The coverage was published on a web site called Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. According to the Hot Zone page, Sites' mission was "to cover every armed conflict in the world within one year, and in doing so to provide a clear idea of the combatants, victims, causes, and costs of each of these struggles - and their global impact."
The Hot Zone project concluded with Sites' coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict of 2006. Currently, updates on Hot Zone stories and themes are periodically posted on the Hot Zone page. Recent posts include an update on Sites' most popular story from the Hot Zone, a report on an Afghan child bride.
After the Hot Zone project was completed, Sites began working on a domestic feature series profiling the unique voices from the online world called "People of the Web." A new profile was posted every week until the series was discontinued in 2008.
Sites was recently selected as a 2010 Nieman Fellow, a prestigious journalism fellowship at Harvard University. In September, 2008, Sites was awarded Manchester College's 2008 Innovator of the Year Award. In 2007, Sites won a National Headliner Award for Independent Online Journalism, a Webby for his video coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, and a citation of excellence from the Overseas Press Club for best web coverage of international affairs.
Sites was honored with the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for the mosque video  and was additionally nominated for the national Emmy Award. Sites was also honoured by the magazine Wired, receiving the magazine's RAVE Award for his popular blog. He was also awarded the Daniel Pearl Award for courage and integrity in Journalism by the Los Angeles Press Club in 2006.
Time Magazine names the Hot Zone as one of its 50 Coolest Websites and Forbes Magazine listed Sites as one of The Web Celeb 25, "the biggest, brightest and most influential people on the web today."
He won the Edward R. Murrow Award in 1999 for his contributions to NBC's coverage of the war in Kosovo.