Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No News Value After All

You'll recall that we now allow the press to cover the return of our dead military personnel in their caskets. The excuse the press gave was that they wanted to show their respect for the human cost of war. How much respect?

In April of this year, the Obama administration lifted the press ban, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Media outlets rushed to cover the first arrival of a fallen U.S. serviceman, and many photographers came back for the second arrival, and then the third.

But after that, the impassioned advocates of showing the true human cost of war grew tired of the story. Fewer and fewer photographers showed up. "It's really fallen off," says Lt. Joe Winter, spokesman for the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where all war dead are received. "The flurry of interest has subsided."

Sadly for our media, the press victory came too late to help with their real goal--defeating George W. Bush. Without that context, reporting on the human cost of war won't get you a Pulitzer.

Still, I imagine the civil war within the media over whether it is their mission to support President Obama or lose the Afghanistan war could change the calculus once again to embracing the human cost of war.

I bet most in our elite news rooms are praying (well, you know what I mean) that the president turns on the war so that they don't have to choose.