Commentary: Here's why a McClatchy editor published dying Marine photo

The Merced Sun-StarSeptember 14, 2009 

So why'd you do it?

The question asked by parents of their kids. By cops of criminals. By husbands of wives and wives of husbands.

And by a lot of you about my decision to publish — in our newspaper and on our Web site last Saturday — a story and photograph from The Associated Press about a young Marine dying of his wounds in Afghanistan.

To more than 50 commenters on our Web site, no answer was good enough. Nearly 100 percent of them expressed outrage over my decision. They called me unethical. Uncaring about the family of the dead Marine, who had asked the AP not to transmit the story worldwide.

They accused me of doing it to sell newspapers. They called for a boycott of the Sun-Star. They apologized to the Marine's family for the Sun-Star's action. They told McClatchy to fire me.

The issue has since gone ballistic nationwide. A debate has raged in newspapers, on TV, radio and across the blogosphere about whether the photo — not so much the story — should have been used by media companies all across America. Few actually did.

The Dallas Morning News ran it. Here's what managing editor George Rodrigue wrote: "Why, then, did we print it? Speaking purely for myself, it was because we owe the men and women fighting for us in Afghanistan and Iraq our full attention and understanding. Too many of us are not providing either. We are allowing them to fight, in a sense, alone. Warfare has been driven off the front page and off the TV newscasts by our economic worries or by relatively trivial fights over issues like whether President Obama should speak to schoolchildren. When unusually grim carnage makes the news, we tend to avert our eyes, perhaps telling ourselves, 'Well, they volunteered to join.' Even when we watch, much of what passes for news of the war doesn't begin to tell the real story. It doesn't fully capture the bravery and dedication of our soldiers, or the horrors endemic to any war."

I thought about running the photo again with this column. But our point was made when we published it last week. To do so again would be counterproductive. It would also needlessly antagonize those of you who took the time to register your objections.

To read the complete column, visit www.mercedsunstar.com.

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service