There is a debate going on about a recent picture taken by AP photographer Julie Jacobson.
The AP distributed the picture despite personal pleas from Gates and the dead Marine’s family in a case that illustrated the difficult decisions in reporting on a conflict where Americans have seen relatively few images of fallen U.S. troops over eight years.
The picture, by AP photographer Julie Jacobson, showed Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard, 21, lying on the ground with severe leg injuries after being struck by a grenade in an ambush on Aug. 14, his fellow Marines tending to him. Bernard later died of his wounds.
I’m not going to post a direct link to the photo, but GretaWire has a link to it if you must see the picture. Reaction has been varied. Greg Mitchell at the Huffington Post calls the reluctance and refusal to run photos like those above “shameful.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates who asked and “begged” the AP not to run the photo said:
Why your organization would purposely defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple newspapers is appalling.
The AP’s Senior Managing Editor, John Daniszewski, explaining the decision said:
We understand Mr. Bernard’s anguish. We believe this image is part of the history of this war. The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice.
Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography defended the photo and it’s release said:
AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is…
…(Bernard’s death shows) his sacrifice for his country. Our story and photos report on him and his last hours respectfully and in accordance with military regulations surrounding journalists embedded with U.S. forces.
Many newspapers didn’t agree with only 20 carrying the photo. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made a pointed statement about the AP on Facebook late Sunday evening:
Lance Corporal Joshua ‘Bernie’ Bernard was a selfless young American who sacrificed everything for our freedom.
Shame on the AP for purposely adding to the grieving family’s pain. Ignoring the family’s wishes by publishing a sacred image of their loved one proved a despicable and heartless act by the AP. The family said they didn’t want the photo published. AP, you did it anyway, and you know it was an evil thing to do.
I don’t buy the “journalistic duty” or “newsworthy” argument that the AP gives. What makes something “newsworthy”? Hearsay from unreliable sources? Something that fits with their political position? Did they consider reporting on the controversy surrounding Van Jones newsworthy until he resigned? We could go around and round about what makes something newsworthy. The simple point is this – they disregarded the wishes of the family.
That is what makes this shameful. If the family was supportive, then fine. But they weren’t. What say you?
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