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Many photographers and editors believe they are delivering Americans an incomplete portrait of the violence that has killed 1,797 U.S. service members and their Western allies and wounded 12,516 Americans.Translation: American's are stupid, don't read, and need pictures. The story includes a score card revealing which papers support this view:
Journalists attribute the relatively bloodless portrayal of the war to a variety of causes ? some in their control, others in the hands of the U.S. military, and the most important related to the far-flung nature of the conflict and the way American news outlets perceive their role.
"We in the news business are not doing a very good job of showing our readers what has really happened over there," said Pim Van Hemmen, assistant managing editor for photography at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.
"Writing in a headline that 1,500 Americans have died doesn't give you nearly the impact of showing one serviceman who is dead," Van Hemmen said. "It's the power of visuals."
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times printed the most shots of wounded in the war zone during that time ? with 10 each, an average of one every 2 1/2 weeks. The other six publications ran a total of 24 pictures of American wounded.A narrated flashplayer slideshow accompanying the online version of the story includes several examples of gruesome wartime corpse photos through history, and also the bloodiest images thus far from Iraq. Don't think for a minute such images are easy to obtain - the Times explains the tremendous efforts their photographers must employ to get usable-quality corpse photos:
Tyler Hicks of the New York Times and Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times accompanied the Army in August during the dangerous assault on the insurgent stronghold of Najaf. They weathered several life-threatening episodes with the troops. But much of the respect they gained disappeared when the two tried to take pictures of wounded and dead soldiers being rushed to a field hospital.It likely never occurred to the fellow platoon members of the wounded soldiers that their actions were "preventing Cole from doing her job" (or, if you prefer, "making a buck").
Cole, a Pulitzer winner for photographs she took of the war in Liberia, said later she understood the soldiers' high emotions. But she resented the row of soldiers blocking her camera, who in her view prevented her from doing her job.
"They were happy to have us along when we could show them fighting the battle, show the courageous side of them," Cole said. "Then suddenly the tables turned. They didn't want anything shown of their grief and what was happening on the negative side, which is equally important."
Of course, there might be other things for a photographer to do while Americans bleed to death. This description of the actions of one in Mosul during last December's chow hall bombing is especially troubling:
Blasted to the ground, Hoffmeyer pulled himself up and into the chaos of the deadliest attack of the war on any U.S. base. A young man bleeding to death beside him would be one of 22 to die that day.We can only hope there was someone administering first aid to the subject of Hoffmeyer's photos, the story doesn't include that detail. But "his hand pressed over a neck wound streaming with blood" troubles me deeply.
Despite a broken lens, aperture wide open, Hoffmeyer fired off several frames of the mortally wounded soldier.
He continued taking pictures of the blast scene ? images that ran prominently in nearly every American paper in the days to come. But he never transmitted the pictures of the dying GI.
Hoffmeyer thought the pictures of the soldier ? his hand pressed over a neck wound streaming with blood ? might be too graphic for publication. If the vivid shots had made the paper, they might have infuriated the Virginia National Guard battalion he had covered, and threatened his plan to catalog the unit's postwar lives. Finally, he thought how terrible it would be if he ever had to see pictures of his own son, age 9, in such a position.
"I don't know if what I did was right," the 41-year-old onetime radio disc jockey said. "But it's what I felt was right."
One wonders if amid rapidly falling circulation numbers the editors of some papers aren't looking back with nostalgia to the slight bump in sales that accompanied their publication of photos of contractor corpses in Fallujah in April 2004. The LA Times quickly defended the display of those graphic images at the time of their publication: "While showing the images could erode support for the war, not showing them could have an opposite effect.". And as with this year's version they also provided expert quotes from outside sources:
"These are the kinds of pictures that will linger," said John Schulz, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and a former faculty member at the National War College.
"They'll be there in November when people go to vote."
You often have often criticized the press in your blog. The LA times article is not quite as ghoulish as it is being made out to be.
I'm genuinely curious, how would you do the job if you were a journalist, assigned to cover the war in Iraq? What things would you write about and take pictures of, and what things would you omit? If you were to write a history book about Iraq, something that would be read by countless generations of Americans in the future, what would it say and show?Posted by Patrick at May 21, 2005 09:34 PM
The press is invited along not because they have a right to be there, they most certainly do not. They can chronicle what happens and provide an independent viewpoint. But they owe decorum to the families of those back home who don't need to spend every night glued to the set to see if that is their boy that reporter is watching bleed to death.
The press overall has done well when embedded with our troops and most have gained respect for the troops professionalism. The problem lies in what graphic images should be shown. The left would like as many as possible to attempt to kill support for our efforts. If they do not show reasonable restraint they may find themselves back in the green zone filing lies from their hotel rooms rather than the field.
Uncle JPosted by Uncle Jimbo at May 21, 2005 10:13 PM
Read any of Ernie Pyle's WW II reports. Did they require a picture to get his meaning across? Not at all.
If reporters want to provide more to readers/viewers, let them expose themselves to the actual combat by being embedded. That way, they'd get to know the troops, their stories would be more accurate, and they could better decide whether to use pictures of what goes on. Running to the scene of an attack or bombing after the fact skews the report.
I've read articles by reporters embedded with Marines during the Fallujah operation. No pictures, but they were vivid to me.
For me, Ernie Pyle deserved the title "journalist." Many current Network reporters may have the degree, but are not fit to use the title or carry Ernie's boots.Posted by Bachbone at May 22, 2005 12:33 AM
What a great defense -- they had to show the pictures, or else public support for the war might increase?
Thanks for not having a bias!
Also, the image of someone bleeding to death on the ground, and the reporter's first, second and third thoughts being about making sure to get a good picture of it.....
I know this is more or less what media bigwigs told us in the infamous North Kosanese panel with Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings... but I always imagine that when real people are thrust into real situations their real humanity will surface, and the obscene answers they give to more hypothetical questions will go away.Posted by Clint at May 22, 2005 12:43 AM
The press can't see how they are alienating themselves from the public and the military.
It would b one thing if they were reporting and showing acts of humanitarianism and heroism conducted by the military, while also reporting or showing casualties. They fail to balance their own coverage however, and have taken the "if it bleeds it leads" maxim to absurd ends. If it ddoesn't bleed, it's not worth covering at all.
We veterans are constantly amazed that what we read in the papers in no way reflects our own experiences in Iraq orAfghanistan.Posted by SFC SKI at May 22, 2005 01:03 AM
Soldiers don't care about the reporters job and they aren't keeping the reporter from taking pictures because the pictures would be negative. It's because the pictures would be PRIVATE.
Under no reasoning to I owe the world entry into my greif. I don't owe the world pictures that rob me of my dignity. I don't owe the world pictures of my dead empty body.
We ask our soldiers to risk injury and death, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity every single moment. We protect those we love from vultures and scavengers.Posted by Julie at May 22, 2005 01:40 AM
Greyhawk, it's Armed Forces Day. Thank You for your service.Posted by Jack at May 22, 2005 02:10 AM
So basically if I read that right, Hoffmeyer let a man bleed to death so he could take pictures and he admits it...
And the press wonder why so many of us think they are traitors and scum.Posted by Kevin at May 22, 2005 04:01 AM
Reporters and photographers are going to have to learn that the internet has a long memory.
For example, Newsweek and Michael Isikoff may think they can just hunker down for a while, but we'll remember next month, next year, and the next decade.
We've got to keep a list of all the reporters and photographers who made things tougher than they already were.
Good stuff over here...always has been...long may it continue.Posted by Buddy Larsen at May 22, 2005 05:14 AM
There's an old, very cynical, joke about press photographers and a hypothetical job interview question:
"If you had to make a snap decision to either jump into the water to save a drowning child or else forego a Pulitizer Prize-winning photograph of her drowning, what kind of film would you use?"
A little dated with digital cameras, I know, but it still shows their dilemma - how much do they give up in being an observer?
I agree that a wounded solder's privacy is paramount. Too bad the press can't respect that.Posted by Whitehall at May 22, 2005 05:33 AM
The best wartime reporting I've ever read was John Steinbeck's. His dispatches from WW2 Europe didn't moon over dead Americans - even though there were quite a few there at the time - but that didn't hurt his reporting to any notable degree. I've yet to see any Iraq reporting which is in anything approaching his league.
Of course, Steinbeck was a gifted writer, rather than a hack.Posted by big dirigible at May 22, 2005 06:20 AM
There seems to be a problem with showing the pictures of jihadis hacking off heads.
If they want blood and guts the jihadis will provide.
But of course no paper/TV news outlet wants to go there. It might inflame the public and increase support for the war.
The pictures of the 9/11 jumpers has gone into the memory hole too. Too inflamatory.
Dead and dying soldiers? That is different.
Steinbeck was a lefty. A very hard lefty.
How times have changed.Posted by M. Simon at May 22, 2005 10:53 AM
I suppose the Times also wants to run graphic photos of people killed in nasty way because of DUI. Not running such photo could lead to an increased support for DUI.
Ridiculous. The Times is only trying to continue their agenda driven attack on the War on Terror.
If I can predetermine what is to be done to my assets and my remains through the preparation of a will beforehand, should not our military warriors have that same right? And should not then the military structure be required to ensure the proper execution of the individual soldiers wishes? Given the potential danger of their chosen profession, such predetermination requirements seem obvious. If there are some who would like their remains to be used for profit making, and political grandstanding, well so be it. But given the choice beforehand, most I suspect, would opt out. As they should have the right. Medical records are private and confidential, why not one's mortal remains?Posted by vilenylons at May 22, 2005 01:45 PM
I saw what started out as a good documentry on the Discovery/NYT channel. I was shocked how unbiased the show was for the first half hour. Then they brought in the reporters and it went downhill fast. They had a reporter say that his main objective was to show something so horrible to the public back home that they will never agree to go to war again. No agenda there. I couldn't believe that they showed him saying that.I turned it off after that. But it shows they want to have the effect the media had on Vietnam on this war. They want to saturation bomb the public with dead troops, collateral damage, prisoner abuse, and so forth. Yet as others have pointed out no head chopper images, WTC jumpers, terrorists blowing up children and civilians, our rebuilding effort, and so on. It is almost all one sided agenda journalism. Notice how fast they forgot Afghanistan once it was starting to turn around?Posted by bags75 at May 22, 2005 01:54 PM
Unfortunately many bloggers are professed journalists. It's just been shown how people of the press are vultures and scavangers. The blogging world hangs by a delicate thread manipulated by a weak government. The leftist moguls of the newspaper industry are not easily defeated. The government will be manipulated by the moguls, the string will be cut, the laws regarding the Freedom of the Press (a license to lie) will be manipulated by Congress to the benifit of the moguls.
It will take a while...but the blogging world will cease and the evil newspaper empires will be back, totally, with it's sinful propaganda.Posted by AC O'Brein at May 22, 2005 02:17 PM
Patrick: "The LA times article is not quite as ghoulish as it is being made out to be."
The LA Times is a propaganda rag. The LA Times has been a propaganda rag at least since 1987, when I stopped buying it. There is nothing I would put past the LA Times. They are a corrosive acid. You can't get lower than the LA Times. I trust the Weekly World News more.Posted by Jabba the Tutt at May 22, 2005 02:28 PM
That is the most disgusting thing about the report: a photographer took pictures instead of trying to save a young man's life. Instead of Applying HIS hand to the neck wound. He let someone die for the sake of bloody pictures.
There is an excellent commentary on Belmont club which I have excerpted in The Virginian.Posted by moneyrunner at May 22, 2005 03:37 PM
Just finished S.L.A. Marshall's firsthand account of the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. Its a reminder that we are not getting the full picture in Iraq. With Marshall, the ebbs and flows of the tactical situation are always placed in the context of the overall war effort. He is somehow able to do this even while documenting the endless horrors of battle, and long periods of lost hope. Michael Yon is filling this void in reporting, but his work should be more widely distributed.
To be fair, Martha Raddatz of ABC, Pentagon reporter, was on a CSPAN 2 panel a couple of days ago recounting all the obstacles she faced in trying to report comprehensively on whats happening on the ground during her seven trips to Iraq.
I still don't think there has been a genuine consideration of the questions I asked. If you are going to continuously criticize reporters (and I agree there is a lot to criticize) then offer up specifics on how you would do the job.
Since WWII there have been various nut jobs who have tried to deny that the Holocaust ever took place. What is a more effective testament to the 6 million that were murdered? If you read about the 6 million in a history book what kind of sense do you get about what actually happened? How much do you connect emotionally with the people of the time and the horrors that they went through? What if instead of reading a line of text in a book you instead saw the news reels showing bulldozers shoving mountains of corpses into ditches for a quick mass burial? Would you ever be able to believe that the Holocaust never happened?
If you do not in some respects document the sacrifices that military men and women have made in America's wars, then how do you know that such sacrifices ever happened? And do you really connect with the cost paid by these young men and women by just reading a line of text? You want Americans to "support the troops". How can they do this if they don't even know who you are? Or if they do not see the price that you have paid to protect them?Posted by Patrick at May 22, 2005 06:36 PM
Earlier this year, I helped APME run parallel surveys of journalists and newspaper readers about the use of graphic images in news reports. As a group, the journalists were more likely to say a particular photo ought to run, but not by that much. And the value judgments described by both groups were pretty similar as well. I know it's easier to criticize journalism when you dehumanize the people doing it as being somehow different than other Americans, or by focusing on high-profile errors, but as someone famously said once, it's a bigger and more important story than that.
You can find a report on the survey, and a breakdown of the numbers, linked from this blog post
FWIW, I appreciate the sacrifices soldiers like you have made and are making right now. I know plenty of people in my profession who feel the same way.Posted by Ryan at May 22, 2005 07:15 PM
Photojournalists, in my experience (I used to be one), are not nearly so interested in pushing a political viewpoint; they are looking for a great photograph that tells a story. Rember, photojournalists don't have the luxury of long deliberations over what to record while in combat, any more than a soldier can philosophically reflect before pulling the trigger on his rifle.
David Hume Kennerly (later personal photographer to President Ford) won the Pulitizer Prize for Feature Photography for his work in Vietnam. He was an excellent and humane combat photographer for UPI who experienced having many of his colleages get killed. There is an exchange in his book Shooter, which goes like this:
Colleague (viewing photograph of wounded Viet Cong taken by Kennerly): "Nice shot. Guy was in rough shape."
Kennerly: "He looked even worse before I fixed him up" (bandaged him, etc.).
Colleage: "Take the photo first, then fix him up!"
The combat photographer's job is not an easy one. I disagree with censoring the photographer. (Capa didn't censor himself at D-Day, nor should he have.) It is the shooter, like Mr. Hoffmyer, who must censor himself in what he chooses to show to his editors. Sadly, many of the current crop of "journalists" lack the humanity and morality to do that, and the military is unfortunately justified in their suspicions.Posted by Fresh Air at May 22, 2005 08:31 PM
Hoffmeyer was within the kill radius of a bomb that took the lives of many people around him. Greyhawk, I understand you are a member of the armed forces. I don't know whether you were ever in combat, or ever hit by such an explosion, but you do understand better than your non-military readers that in such a situation, if you are able to function at all, you begin by functioning according to your training.
I guarantee you that every soldier in that mess hall did exactly that: as they got up off the floor, they began to function as they were trained. People trained in first aid began to render first aid. People trained to shoot reached for their guns. People trained in food service headed for the kitchen. As the shock wore off, they got a grip on more immediate considerations, and began to function more appropriately. There were hundreds of people in that mess hall outside of the blast zone, many if not most of them with first-aid training. They swarmed the kill zone. Within seconds, every person who needed attention was getting it.
In the first seconds after the blast, a stunned photographer reached for his camera. There is nothing remotely dishonorable about that response, as you know full well, sir. Hoffmeyer took some pictures that he might not have taken under other circumstances. Later, when he was thinking more clearly, he decided not to use them.
What would you have done differently, Greyhawk?
Heavy bleeding from the neck indicates that one or more of the large arteries or veins that serve the brain have been ruptured. The soldier was dying of the most mortal of wounds; a trained and experienced trauma surgeon in full command of his skills may have had a slim chance of helping him. A shell-shocked former DJ had no ability whatever to help the soldier, and there is every reason to think that he could only have done further harm. Self-righteous commenters to this thread are insisting that Hoffmeyer should have applied direct pressure to the soldier's throat. Ask your doctor about that one.
Hoffmeyer is not the enemy. The Jihadists are. Our children are dying to protect our freedoms. The Founders gave first place in the Bill of Rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. They are dying for Hoffmeyer's freedom to decide not to publish those photos. You got a problem with that? Be careful what you wish for.Posted by Jody at May 22, 2005 09:01 PM
I'd present stories that were simple statements of facts, and avoid injecting my opinion. I'd include my opinion of events on the editorial page. (Also see Austin Bay's excellent post on what he'd do if he were Newsweek's editor here). I'd watch for signs of real malfeasance on the part of the military like a hawk - and I'd be sure to keep my reputation clear by not pouncing on every unsubstantiated report I could that might give my political opponents a black eye. Real examples of "bad behavior" on the part of military (people and institution) do occur, but sadly today's media has been the boy who cried wolf too many times of late. They owe the public the unvarnished truth but have routinely failed in that regard.
The Times doesn't want graphic images of the reality of war, they have plenty available and don't publish them. Each time the terrorists in Iraq behead another victim they provide video of the event for all the world to see. What would better exemplify the sacrifice of Americans in the war than to display front-page images of masked men carving their heads off slowly as they scream, their hands bound tightly behind them?
They won't do it, of course, and I wouldn't want them to. I've never seen one of those videos, have no desire to, and won't link to anyone who provides them. What the Times (and others) want is images of soldiers as victims - not of the enemy but of the "politicians who sent them off to war". Living ones can (and do) state their own case, but the dead can't. This makes it very attractive for some in the media to pretend to speak for them.
Ryan and Patrick
David Zucchino's excellent book "Thunder Run" is a fine example of how I'd like to see the war covered. There's nothing sugar-coated, and no discussion of right or wrong - just a factual account of men in combat. I address this to Patrick too by way of acknowledging that yes, there are fine reporters covering the war. Zucchino, in fact, works for the LA Times. I always try to note who the actual reporter is in a given story - not blame "the media" in general - but in the case of this particular Times report I think we're seeing editorial policy, not individual opinion, being developed.
Like military and civilian leaders debating what constitutes torture I think the discussion of what constitutes acceptable reporting is an ugly necessity. Hopefully sane heads prevail in both decisions.
I'm glad Mudville can be a forum where such things are discussed. I'm thankful that I have commenters like you guys to to keep me honest.
Jody, Agree with your list of our most prized civil rights. Like the man said:
It is the soldier, not the politician
Who gives us the freedom of speech
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who gives us freedom of the press
It is the soldier, not the protester,
Who gives us freedom to demonstrate...
I think the intensity of the feelings on the part of the military, and those who love and support them, is that they are bearing the brunt of establishing conditions for those rights, and their stories are not being told.
I fear that even historical documentation of their feats is not happening. Not just their sacrifices, not just their grieving families, but their military accomplishments.
Right now we are getting social studies war coverage: women and gays in the military, stress on families, amputee problems, body counts, etc...Issues that are obviously important, but are being covered out of proportion to their actual role in the overall context of the war effort.
What was the situation during Paul Smith's heroics? Brad Kasals, a Marine, saved lives and almost lost his own - how did he do it? Not just the sacrifice, and framing their friends and families as victims. MSM has yet to give these occurrences coverage in proportion to their importance in this effort.
The social studies aspect of the military is easy to cover, analyze and understand. Covering the warfighting - how are the battles proceeding, what ingenuity are our soldiers displaying in this "new" war? How are our forces rewriting how war is fought in this new century? What are the accomplishments on the ground, not just the sacrifices, which are also important in their context?
These are more difficult to cover, and may require some knowledge and even technical expertise. You don't have to be Clauswitz, just provide a picture that is proportional, and accurate in terms of the overall picture.
I think a strong defense and free press are equally necessary. Both depend on the other to a certain degree. I have heard of soldiers providing for, and going to great lengths to protect embeds in their units, even embeds who are not necessarily favorable in their coverage.
We're getting half the story right now. The other half has to do with the reinforced steel in the backbones of U.S. soldiers fighting house to house, hand to hand. The MSM, the general public's window into the war, is not telling that part of the story. Yes (see Martha Raddatz, ABC Pentagon reporter CSPAN2 panel on her 7 trips to Iraq.) its tough to get those stories.
But they are just as much a part of the reality of the situation as the social-oriented coverage. I'm not talking about cheerleading, just balance.Posted by jordan at May 23, 2005 02:44 PM
I'm surprised that people would say soliders give us freedom. I always thought it self-evident that we are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights were form governments deriving their power by the just consent of the governed. Silly me.Posted by Willysnout at May 23, 2005 06:08 PM
As far as photography goes, people ought to remember that the photographer doesn't create the scene but only records it. So, the real issue is whether we want to see the results of the war or not.
I find war photography very disturbing, and I think most other people do too. At times, I've forced myself to look at pictures on the grounds that I have an obligation to do it. Now we have a demand from many that the pictures not be shown, and in fact the Bush administration has banned photos of coffins and flies the wounded back to the U.S. in the middle of the night to avoid photographs being taken.
If I were in the military or part of a military family I think I would have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I understand the desire for privacy, along with the feeling that a photograph of a dead or wounded American is an intrusion.
On the other hand, if people don't see the results of sending people to war then maybe it becomes too easy to pull the trigger. I do think the photograps should include a variety of images, because the war isn't all ugly death. But ugly death is certainly part of it, and the refusal to look at it will not make it go away.Posted by Willysnout at May 23, 2005 06:55 PM
The battlefield is confusing enough, and there are enough responsibilities for our guys without having to nursemaid the MSM reporters and photogs. Better to leave them at the HQ, or allow them up front if they acknowledge that they are responsible for their own safety, and if they are denied coverage of any event, tough sh*t.Posted by Herkybirdman at May 25, 2005 11:21 PM
Willysnout said: "I'm surprised that people would say soliders give us freedom. I always thought it self-evident that we are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights were form governments deriving their power by the just consent of the governed. Silly me. "
Not silly - just suicidally moronic and naive. Try flying that "unalienable rights" schtick with a terrorist about to chop your head off. I suspect they'll be disapointingly unreceptive to your argument. You will however probably provide them with a (brief) moment of gut splitting laughter before they cancel your sorry ass.
You (collectively) only get to excercise the rights you are willing to fight to retain.Posted by Irritated at August 15, 2005 11:17 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(31) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)