“This job is my life.” Trey Yingst, the 30-year-old Fox News foreign correspondent, tells TheWrap about covering the latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.
In 2014, Yingst – still in college at the time – told his parents he was going to Jerusalem to report on the ongoing conflict. Instead, he found a way into the Gaza Strip to report from the inside.
Nearly 10 years later, Yingst is now covering an inflamed conflict in the same region. But this time it hits much closer to home for the foreign correspondent.
“For me, this war is different because of how close it is to where I live,” said Yingst, who now lives in Israel full time.
“We were on the ground, covering the attack as it unfolded. We could hear the gunfire. We watched as the injured and dead soldiers and civilians were loaded into ambulances,” the Fox News correspondent recalled.
“It’s a conflict that we’ve been following for so long and never thought we would be covering it at this level and in this way,” Yingst told TheWrap.
Yingst joined Fox News in August of 2018 as a foreign correspondent where he has covered conflict zones for the network including Ukraine, Afghanistan, and across the Middle East. Prior to joining Fox News, Yingst served as Chief Washington correspondent for OAN.
Yingst told TheWrap that he attempts to approach his coverage of this latest conflict from a “human angle.”
“There are a lot of people that are caught in the crossfire of this conflict and we have to tell their stories,” Yingst said. “We talk often a lot about the bombs and we’ll talk about the artillery and the battles, but the story about people, a lot of people are suffering right now.”
Yingst spoke to TheWrap about the horrors he saw with his own eyes in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and why journalists have to get the first draft of history right in a conflict of this nature.
Can you speak to some of the scenes you saw in the south of Israel after Oct. 7?
We saw a lot of horrific things in southern Israel. We were in these communities in the days after the massacre, and I lost track of how many horrific scenes we encountered. We were in Sderot as the bodies of police officers and militants were loaded into the back of a waiting pickup truck. We were in Be’eri, in the homes of civilians who were slaughtered and executed, as the bodies were still strewn throughout this normally quiet community … Things that people shouldn’t see, but are the unfortunate reality of this war.
We’ve just seen a lot and I think that it’s a lot to process. We are focused on getting the story out to the world and that’s our number one priority, ensuring that we can educate people and inform people about what happened and continue our reporting as the war develops.
Why do you think it’s so important for journalists to have to go through the emotional trauma of seeing these atrocities for the benefit of the general public?
I think it’s critical as a journalist to report on the ground from the scenes because we are writing the first draft of history. It’s our role as journalists to go to the places that other people won’t go and to tell the stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told. I feel a massive responsibility to be there and to get it right, knowing that the world is watching, and also knowing that years from now, people will look back on this reporting to understand.
The fog of war and its relation to media organizations in this conflict has been a large point of discussion. How are you combatting misinformation while reporting from the ground of an active war zone?
I think there is no room for the fog of war among journalists. We are patient in our reporting and we also have an incredible attention to detail. I would rather be right than be first. Many times throughout this conflict we’ve been first and right and that’s the result of having years of sourcing behind me, having sources in both Gaza and in Israel. I think it’s a result really at the end of the day of patience because I will not go to air with something unless I have been able to confirm it.
I’ll just give you one specific example of how this is the case: We are always receiving information and videos from people in Gaza and from people in Israel. If I receive a video from something and they say it hasn’t been published and I’m sending it to you. I don’t just take that. I will have the person swipe up on the video on the phone and screenshot the metadata and send it to me so I can confirm and match what they said and what they are claiming it to be, to what I’m seeing in the video. The video itself is not enough. I need evidence behind the video to share that it is accurate and correct because there’s just no room for inaccurate reporting.
We just have to get it right and it’s part of the reason that I would say when it comes to sourcing in the war, trust is critical. It’s critical to maintain your sources and to ensure that people trust you with information. This comes down to feeling the responsibility to get it right and I think we take the steps to make sure that we can verify the information we’re receiving, get multiple sources on a story, and then take it to air.
There’s also an immense danger to journalists in this conflict with many having been killed or injured. How are you keeping yourself and your team safe while reporting from dangerous areas and being under consistent rocket fire?
Safety is a top priority for us. We have a lot of resources provided by Fox to stay safe. Not only the training behind us, provided by the company but also the equipment, the helmets, flak jackets, we have an armored vehicle with us. We have a security team with us and there’s nothing that we need that we don’t have. We have everything you need to stay safe and have the experience to cover the story.
Broadly, when it comes to journalists, you make a great point, a lot of journalists have been killed or injured so far in Gaza particularly, in Lebanon, and three Israeli journalists were killed in the massacre. Journalists must be protected at all costs. It’s imperative that journalists on all sides of this conflict can do their jobs and be protected. I just like to be on the record status because it is important that we talk about this as an industry and entire that journalists can do their jobs in a safe way.