A journalist's deeply embedded love of self

Writing in The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby shows how whitewashed remembrances of Michael Kelly are actually an indictment of sloppy journalists who care more about their careers and colleagues than the need to report factually and fairly.

As much as I admired David Bloom's reporting in Iraq, I find it off-putting to see NBC and MSNBC lavishly memorializing him several days after his death -- a period in which U.S. soldiers have died without rating even a single mention of their names.

I have to wonder how the families of the military feel when seeing the media pay so much more attention to their own casualties. After five days of fulsome tributes to Kelly, the press has devoted almost no ink to Army Sgt. Wilbert Davis, the soldier who died with him in the April 3 Humvee accident.

Many journalists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance that dovetails nicely with the perils of war. Case in point: Embedded journalist Ron Martz thanking God for putting two U.S. soldiers at his side in Iraq so they could be shot instead of him!

Comments

The coverage of the reporters death bothered me when I saw it on tv, but your thoughts have put the punctuation on the story.

It's too bad Kelly died, and I mean that sincerely. However, Arlington is a resting place for those who actually served in the Armed Forces.

The media don't memorialize fallen soldiers by name mainly out of respect for the privacy and feelings of the families. A reporter, like Kelly, is a semi-public figure and the rules seem to be a bit different. I've done Casualty Assistance Calls (ie, notifying relatives that a family member has died or been wounded) and in my opinion, it is a good thing for many reasons NOT to publish the names of the dead or to memorialize them. There are nut cases out there (right, left, and pro-Iraqui) who would make the lives of the families even more miserable by harassing them. It happened during Viet Nam, it could happen again.

Martz was really inappropriate in his remarks, and I hope he will apologize for not thinking about the comments before he filed them. Where was his editor? Anyone who has been under fire knows that, when people to the left and right of you are hit and you are not, it just wasn't your day to get hit. God doesn't make the choices, and tomorrow is another day. And of course, Martz might also reflect that if HE had not been where he was, neither one of those men might have been hit. Rather than thanking God, maybe he could have taken responsibility and expressed some remorse for possibly having put them in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The overcoverage of reporter's deaths is almost as annoying as that piece of bile that you link to from The American Prowler. Jesus, what is that guy's problem?

Thanks also, I believe, to the hand of God.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Yes, that capricious trickster, God. Hates those soldiers but loves those journalists. Keeps them safe. Except for the ones he doesn't.

I have a question for all the people who say that: "Do you really believe that God picks some people to die and some people to live? Do you think he actually makes a conscious choice?" If so, what was it about these two particular soldiers, that he put in harms way instead of you, that he disliked? Did they curse a lot? Did they have sex out of wedlock? Please, explain to me what their particular sins were.

Ah, yes. You've just gotta love that 'God-loves-me-but-he-hates-you' religion. Which sect is that again?

Give me a break. The reporter is doing exactly what you or I would do (assuming you're religious at all) - thank the supreme being that he himself wasn't hit. If you've ever been in combat that's what you think - thank god it wasn't me. The reporter is merely putting in words what most of us would think.

Thinking something and sharing it with the public are two different things. I've thought any manner of self-absorbed, grateful or venal things when I was close to a tragedy from which I escaped harm. (One of the things that creeps me out about funerals is the weird sense of elation that it isn't me in the box.)

If I was in Martz's position, perhaps I would be so overwhelmed by the experience that I would believe God made a conscious decision to put others in the line of bullets that might otherwise have hit me.

However, I like to think I'd recognize that sentiment as being one best kept to myself, rather than being offered to an audience of readers that includes many families of service members desperately worried about their loved ones.

How do you think the guy with a bullet wound to his eye would feel about the suggestion that God lined him up for the shot?

Rogers said: "However, I like to think I'd recognize that sentiment as being one best kept to myself, rather than being offered to an audience of readers that includes many families of service members desperately worried about their loved ones."

It was nice that you acknowledge that Mr. Martz may have been overwhelmed with the events of the day. Is OK to make a major production about it on your weblog? Where is your "inner editor". If weblogs are "powerful" enough to get Trent Lott to step down as Majority Leader, don't you think your post could impact the people you say Mr. Martz should have considered?

Or, is it only the flow that matters?

I don't follow your logic, Robert. Even if my weblog's audience of dozens was comparable to the readership of the Journal-Constitution, I would still be using it to comment on subjects of personal and public interest. And I would have said the same things.

In his weblog, Kieran Healy writes, "The sheer contingency of Martz's experience -- the fact that it could easily have been him, but wasn't -- defeats him. So he reads religious significance into the outcome, at the expense of reducing the other guys to marionettes in God's Plan For Ron Martz."

I find that reductive theology both creepy and inappropriate for a news report. Even if Martz got a free pass for being overwhelmed by circumstance, his editors in Atlanta don't.

Thanks for using the word "fulsome" correctly! So often I see it used as it meant "enthusiastic" instead of the real meaning: "disgusting"

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/errors/fulsome.html

Hmm... I find it odd that webloggers can talk about the impact their chosen delivery mechanism has on "raising the level of awareness" of important news, and yet dismiss the reality that their posts may have a negative impact.

Considering the flow generated by a link on Scripting News, you would have to agree that your readership saw an increase for the day.

How can webloggers, on one hand, say "This is my weblog and I can say what I want!", while on the other, webloggers admonish a newspaper for allowing a reporter to do the same thing? Is that logical?

FWIW, it appears to me that Mr Martz's editors are right on! The things that cause me to pause and read newspapers and weblogs, has to do with the human dynamics (physical, mental and spiritual) communicated through one's writings. We should not attempt to eradicate these elements from the mix.

Isn't that what freedom of speech is all about?

Who are you debating here, Robert? I agree with you that webloggers shouldn't fall back on the "nobody reads me" excuse when someone objects to what they have written. I didn't do that -- as far as I'm concerned, I have as much obligation to be professional and fair on Workbench as I did when I was a newspaper reporter.

I don't object to the idea of Martz sharing his personal feelings with an audience; I object to the particular feelings he expressed.

Rogers, sorry to have missed your meaning in what you wrote....and sorry for not communicating my thoughts more clearly.

When you wrote:

"Many journalists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance that dovetails nicely with the perils of war."

"Thinking something and sharing it with the public are two different things. "

"....his editors in Atlanta don't."

I took it to mean that you not only had a problem with what he said, but that his employer should have known better than to have allowed it to go to print. That is why I made my previous comments.

Rogers, I have read Mr. Martz's article over and over and I didn't read into it what you or Kieran did. Oh well, I guess it all depends on one's frame of reference.

"U.S. soldiers have died without rating even a single mention of their names."

I'm not sure this is a fair statement. I've seen many of the major news networks run through mug shots of the day's dead, fading from one to another over a soundtrack of solemn drumbeats. And my paper has been running as many profiles of casualties as possible, similar to what it did for victims after 9/11.

I must've missed that on NBC and MSNBC, the networks I was talking about in that statement. During the two days of wall-to-wall Bloom coverage, complete with solemn out-to-commercial "David Bloom 1963-2003" graphics, I didn't see any reports on specific soldier casualties a couple hours' watching.

Print, as usual, is much better. The New York Times runs a daily item with the soldiers identified as dead since the previous day. It doesn't get the play of the 9/11 obituaries, but at least the names made the paper.

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