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Covering the war

July 10, 2007 | Death,Ethics,Iraq,Journalism,Military

Firefighter coffins

I don’t mean to diminish the South Carolina tragedy in any way, but why did this photograph bother me? It ran across the front page of my hometown newspaper — and probably countless others — on June 23, 2007. Was it an attempt to ease a collective guilty conscience for refusing to run photographs of flag-draped coffins every day that U.S. troops return home that way?

For the record, 12 troops died June 23, 2007, and 111 troops died during June. Fifteen were from California. Florida lost two soldiers on June 21, which would have been more “local” than a fire in South Carolina, but my newspaper didn’t write about either of them.

Remember this controversy? Maytag Aircraft, a military contractor and subsidy of Mercury Air Group, Inc., fired cargo worker Tami Silicio for “violating U.S. government and company regulations” for submitting a photograph of flag-draped coffins of U.S. troops to The Seattle Times, which published it April 27, 2004. Her husband, David Landry, who also worked for the contractor, was fired too. (More coverage is here.)

The Pentagon had banned the media from taking photographs of caskets being returned to the United States since 1991, and this incident did nothing to ease that ban. Even so, Silicio was not “the media,” and the only Maytag Aircraft regulations that seem to cover this issue fall under the vague blanket of “and other company regulations.”

Russ Kick of The Memory Hole filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act and posted photographs not published in newspapers.

Some politicians and editors say that publishing photographs of military coffins would be seen as an antiwar statement by the media. If I were to follow that logic, would not publishing them be considered a prowar statement?

Posted by Becky @ 9:33 pm  

One Response to “Covering the war”

  1. Deep Muck Big Rake » Covering the war, part 4 Says:

    […] am not saying this story does not belong on the front page. As I said before, though, I wonder what is behind the decisions about story placement. Did someone from the […]

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