Sometimes being a member of the press sickens me. It happens in times where the press and media reach below the bowels of the lowest common denominator and dredge up muck. We all learned about one such instance when Entertainment Tonight published a photo of the dead body of Michael Jackson on a stretcher as doctors struggled to save his life. I spoke harshly of that decision and those that would benefit from the suffering of a family in a time of grief.
Yet again I find myself having to denounce a decision of another news organization. This time it the Associated Press. Normally this is a news agency of high regard and solid reporting. But I assume that the need to make a profit in a recession exceeded the obvious and declared standards of good taste and respect. Such is the media of today.
The AP published a photo of a Marine, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, as he was dying from wounds received in a firefight in Afghanistan. This went against the multiple requests of the family NOT to publish this photo.
“Bernard’s father after seeing the image of his mortally wounded son said he opposed its publication, saying it was disrespectful to his son’s memory. John Bernard reiterated his viewpoint in a telephone call to the AP on Wednesday”
Not only did the AP decide that the wishes of the family were unimportant, they ignored requests via phone and in writing from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates directly contacted the president of the AP Thomas Curley in a phone call and then again with a letter that states in part
“Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly. In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as was the case with Walter Reed.
I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.”
I believe the wishes of the family should have been respected. I believe that Gate’s request should have been honored. I see no benefit to the stories of Afghanistan, or to history, from the display of the final moments of this Marine. The only attempted result of this picture (that I will never publish) is to create controversy and profit.
Not only did the AP use the death of this Marine, the Buffalo News, (Wheeling, W.Va.) Intelligencer, Akron Beacon-Journal and the St. Petersburg Times all ran the photo. I denounce the use of this photo. I am appalled by decision of the editors of each of these news organization in seeking to gain profit and circulation via profiteering on the death of a Marine and controversy that can only amplify the anguish of the Bernard family.
The Bernard family has my most sincere and deep condolences. Lcpl Bernard gave his life for this country, something I deeply respect and understand. His memory should be honored, not disgraced.
I recommend to all my readers to avoid the AP, Buffalo News, (Wheeling, W.Va.) Intelligencer, Akron Beacon-Journal and the St. Petersburg Times if at all possible. While it cannot right what has been done, perhaps losing the circulation and profits they have held above dignity and respect will prevent another such travesty.
President – M V Consulting, Inc