The New York Times, the oft-cited (though often erroneously) example of “liberal media bias,” is under fire from prominent military bloggers for showing images of a wounded Soldier on their Web site before the family had been notified.
From the Houston Chronicle:
A photograph and videotape of a Texas soldier dying in Iraq published by the New York Times have triggered anger from his relatives and Army colleagues and revived a long-standing debate about which images of war are proper to show.
The journalists involved, Times reporter Damien Cave and Getty Images photographer Robert Nickelsberg, working for the Times, had their status as so-called embedded journalists suspended Tuesday by the Army corps in Baghdad, military officials said, because they violated a signed agreement not to publish photos or video of any wounded soldiers without official consent.
New York Times foreign editor Susan Chira said Tuesday night that the newspaper initially did not contact the family of Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija about the images because of a specific request from the Army to avoid such a direct contact.
“The Times is extremely sensitive to the loss suffered by families when loved ones are killed in Iraq,” Chira said. “We have tried to write about the inevitable loss with extreme compassion.”
She said that after the newspaper account, with a photograph of the soldier, was published Monday, a Times reporter in Baghdad made indirect efforts to tell the family of the video release later that day. The video was still available for viewing on the Times’ Web site Tuesday night, when the newspaper notified clients of its photo service that the photograph at issue was no longer available and should be eliminated from any archives.
There is no doubt that posting that content was wrong.
However, it seems like the New York Times knows it made an error in deciding to remove the photo, so I don’t think there was a deliberate decision to leave the video up. With a massive organization like the New York Times, it is entirely possible that they didn’t realize it was there.
Still, this situation raises some questions:
1) Is this just an example of the price we pay of living in a digital society? Are “mistakes” like this inevitable?
2) If the New York Times is working to correct a mistake, should the blogosphere keep hounding them?
3) The military already has rules for journalists, but they still get broken. What can the military do better to ensure that the rights of Soldiers (and their families) are always respected?
Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off!