Sunday, June 12, 2005

How to make people hate the press 
Dadmanly is in Iraq now, and he's pissed.

He's pissed at the near sociopathic narcissism of some in the media who chase down trivial scoops regardless of the impact on the people around them.

One of the idiots here who doesn't understand the very good reasons for the blackout, placed an anonymous call just before the blackout was imposed, saying 4 soldiers of our Division were killed, maybe more injured.

An equally idiotic (no, make that even more idiotic) news editor or reporter called Mrs. Dadmanly at home, told her about the anonymous tip, and asked her if she had heard any news? The reporters involved apparently contacted several family members.

Needless to say, with the rest of us on blackout, my wife was a basket case, as were many other family members and friends. Since the news (based on this anonymous tip) was immediately reported on local news and amplified by CNN, the military authorities in our Rear Detachment were forced to send out an email confirming that soldiers were injured, but that no further information could be made available until families had been notified. Which just scared and upset more families and friends of Soldiers in our Division, because (thanks to HIPAA restrictions), the Army can't reveal any medical information without patient consent.

My wife had to wait until the blackout was lifted to find out if I had been injured. Or if others in my unit had been hurt or killed.

During the blackout Soldiers in our unit had no idea the attack had been reported back home. When the blackout was lifted, I quickly emailed my wife at work, sending a bland "How are you today? I'm fine," just in case she hadn;t heard anything, but letting her know I was okay if she had.

Her first response was, "Do You Know How Crazy Things Were Here?!"

Friends and family were frantic. Reports were all over the place, and there were all these calls from the press. Neighborhood new press. Neighbors from in town. Emails and calls. No solid information, no "Your Soldier is safe and sound," but more like "You will be contacted if your Soldier has been injured."

I said the second story was one of outrage, and I guess that's what I consider these calls to family members, outrageous. The likelihood of them knowing anything substantive is remote. That a reporter might thereby elicit footage or recordings or juicy quotes full of fear, hysteria, grief, or anger would be quite probable. And who does that serve? It's like those horrible pseudo-reality shows that try to generate raw emotional reactions from participants. And on the "use discretion" side of their considerations, what would be the likelihood that these family members don't know anything, and they're first hearing fearful news from the reporter intruding on their privacy?

Freedom of the press is a right that bears an attendant responsibility. Sometimes that responsibility is gravely important.

It isn't exactly "First, do no harm," but that wouldn't be a bad place to start. Some news can wait a day or two. Unless of course you're the unfortunate family that gets the personal visit to your home. The rest of you can wait.


Thanks very much for the link, and support. I've posted an update at A Tragedy Worsens.
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