Distributes Photo Against Family Wishes
By Anne Elder
In a time when violence and war are graphically displayed in the media, often the line between compelling journalism and explicit coverage is blurred. Regardless of journalistic intentions, Americans should not be subjected to witnessing devastating images against the explicit wishes of family members.
According to The New York Times, on Aug. 14, 2009, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, which caused him many fatal leg injuries. While fellow Marines looked after his wounds, Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson, who was following the Marine unit through Afghanistan, took a picture of the brutal scene with a long lens.
The release of this image has caused controversy nationwide.
On her voyage through Afghanistan, Jacobson acquired countless photos of the unit before the ambush as well as at Bernard’s memorial service, yet it was the bloody, graphic photo of the dying Marine that attracted the most attention.
In my opinion, the release of the blurry picture that “told a story of sacrifice,” as AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski told The New York Times, was just a ploy used by national news gatherers to cause scandal and display their journalistic audacity. Their decision to release it showed poor journalistic etiquette and a general lack of common decency.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is calling the release “appalling,” according to The Washington Post.
Both Gates and the family of the fallen Marine personally requested the photos remain unseen by the public.
Before releasing the photos last Friday, an AP reporter visited Bernard’s home, where his father told them the pictures would be “disrespectful to his son’s memory.” When asked again about the exposure of the photos, the family was adamant about not wanting them released.
Despite the multiple requests sent to the AP, the photos were sent out to newspapers all over the country last week. While I do not think the AP should censor their coverage to protect the American mindset of war, rash decisions should not be made regarding the delicate subject of death and a grieving family.
Respect should be granted not only to the deceased but also to the surviving relatives.
The family made it clear to the AP and now to all of America that they did not wish for the brutal images to be included in newspapers, yet their wishes were essentially ignored.
Daniszewski said, “[Knowing the family’s wishes] created a difficult choice between our job to document the war and our respect for the suffering of the corporal’s family.”
Ultimately, the AP found their job to be more important and tastelessly sent the image of a maimed, dying son to newspapers around the country.