DATE: 5/03/2004 09:28:00 AM
At Least They're Consistent - A few years ago, a student at a university in the state committed suicide by jumping out of the fourth-floor window of the dormitory. Suicides are not normally news, but the local media showed up en masse and took pictures of the police investigation, the crowds of students milling around and even the blood spot on the sidewalk where the young student hit. The Bangor Daily News ran a large picture of the public safety officers measuring the angle from the window to the impact point.
So it's with no surprise that I read the BDN editorial about the flag-draped coffin controversy. The editors of the Bangor Daily argue that the media should be allowed to take pictures of the returning war dead as they arrive in the United States. Somehow, intruding on a family's private grief falls under what the public has a "right to know." The Bangor Daily editors also erroneously report this is a "Bush administration ban," when in fact the ban has been in place since the other Bush administration, and remained in place throughout the Clinton administration. But hey, anything to make Bush look bad. What are facts to opinion editors?
The administration should force the media to explain why they want to see pictures of the war dead, and ignore the boilerplate reasoning of the "right to know." What possible news value exists in the pictures of people coming back in flag-draped coffins other than to increase the suffering of those who have lost a loved one? The death of the soldier has already been reported, the story is over. The BDN admits the ceremony is "dignified." Why make it less so by allowing jostling bands of cameramen and reporters to use the war dead as just another headline?
I was there the day the student killed herself, as I worked for the university. I watched the paramedics try to save the student, and saw the photographers and reporters taking pictures and hectoring students and employees still in shock about what had happened. The BDN was among them. I see their news values have not changed much. Death, suffering, grief. The media's response?
Page one, baby.