|Caring for injured Haitians DoD Photo|
We can see daily where the freedom of the press can influence world events such as the Arab Spring, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the military response to the Haiti disaster. A piece of the 1st Amendment and Bill of Rights made freedom of the press a right of every US citizen. Our veterans for generations have fought, been injured and died to protect this freedom that many others do not have. It appears that some in the media choose to forget this fact.
But our freedom of the press which we should take very seriously sometimes allows personal biases and agendas to come forth at inappropriate times. I challenge some of the news folks to identify what is critical and what is not to a story. Tagging headlines such as Navy Veteran Kills Wife (example only) needs to be re-assessed. What relevancy did the veteran piece have to do with this story? Was he suffering from PTSD? TBI? Or had he been a veteran that was in trouble before he was released from military service due to misconduct or anti-social tendencies? We do not have a rash of military members killing their spouses but Americans unfamiliar with the military community might wonder what veterans are up to after seeing that headline. With so much information to digest, I doubt if they read the article deep enough to find out the murderer served 20 or more years ago and was an addict. Notice that I am not calling for any government intervention, no court challenges, just good old American responsibility to readers and ethics that should be considered part of the media’s persona.
Another example, if an individual served in the Marines, 15 years ago, is it relevant to the story headline if he kills someone? (Probably not; unless it was an old Marine buddy who came to see him and got killed for the experience.) Instead of digging for relevant material the reporter/writer/editor do a google search and find out that the person served in one of his country’s military service and then makes that lead the story. They fail to report that the service ended up dishonorably or that they were the mayor of their town 10 years ago.
Here is an example of a news story that the veteran status is important and fairly covered: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/16/father-calif-killings-suspect-is-also-homeless/ No headline about his veteran status but the story expands on his homeless status and the facts of his service seem to point to a service related issue with his mental health. I get this one! The fact that father and son were both homeless is relevant to the challenges they faced.
I am proud of my military service and tired of headlines making all military personnel out to be psychopaths when a bank is robbed, someone is murdered, etc. There are many veterans who need our support and sympathy and identifying their needs and writing a story about those needs would be wonderful. Most reporters do write fairly and accurately but at times we can do better for the troops! Some media do this for political or partisan reasons. Anti-war; pro or against this or that country, alliance, ethnic group, religion or other rationale makes it easy for them to make the troops targets. This negative vision of our military was an epidemic during the very un-popular Vietnam War but I see it creeping back into the news and I would hate to see it grow any further. The national media probably have fewer veterans than our current Congress and Executive officials which is at an abysmally low percentage. Sometimes an ability to empathize is critical to a story.
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