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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  1. I didn’t hear about it until reading your note on Facebook. In my opinion, it “much ado about nothing!” Certainly another way for Sarah to get herself inserted into the news though. 🙂

    1. @Don, Well, you could say the same thing about Secretary Gates since he’s the one who commented. There were plenty of people commenting on this, not just Governor Palin, but I suppose that’s ok.

      Why is it much to do about nothing? If you were one of the family members would it be much to do about nothing?

    2. @Don, By the way, all she did was write a Facebook post. It isn’t like she sent out a press release. So your saying that she is trying “to get herself inserted into the news” doesn’t really wash.

  2. If journalists only reported on and printed what families and organizations gave their blessings to, I dare to say the majority of American newspapers – the most credible at least (and yes there are credible news outlets that can also be biased) – would probably fold immediately. Should the AP have or have not published the photo? That is not my call. I’m not an editor in its newsroom. But I know that good news organizations have to make tough calls like this. “Despicable and heartless act.” Give me a break. “Immoral acts like this.” You’ve got to be kidding me. My heart goes out to the family. And no, I wouldn’t have liked it if this had happened to me. But thank God for freedom of the press.

    1. @Todd Razor, I understand your point, but I don’t place much trust in the motives of much of the press. I’m also not saying that they should ask permission. I would think that the family of an American solider who doesn’t want their son remembered this way should weigh heavier than what their idea of what is newsworthy.

      I personally wouldn’t have used the language that Governor Palin did, but she’s been burned by AP before so there isn’t any love lost.

      I too am thankful for freedom of the press, but there was a time when the press actually acted responsibly. That seems to be gone with The New York Times outing classified intelligence programs and instances like what the AP chooses is newsworthy and what isn’t newsworthy.

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