Friday, August 18, 2006

A Challenge for Journalists

We’re being told, in effect, that journalism is dead in America. Newspapers and other media outlets have become profit-driven enterprises. Writers are now looking for events which will sell more newspapers and magazines and get more television news viewers. Once the story stops entertaining the public, the reporting stops. That message comes down from the top: the owners and stockholders of American media.

Recent events in the JonBenet Ramsey case, which has remained endlessly entertaining to the American public, illustrate this very well.

Ten years after the little girl’s death, reporters are knocking one another over for any tidbit of information about the recent arrest of a “person of interest” in the case. Headlines actually contradict other headlines and the media daily publishes updates and tiny bits of information ferreted out about the suspect and the case. Each time I hear the ten-year-old recording of the now deceased Patsy Ramsey choking back tears in her raw grief after JonBenet’s death, I am brought to tears as well.

I can remember the same fragile state after my son’s death and reporters calling our home incessantly for weeks afterwards. I took restraint to refuse comment, but since we didn’t know exactly what happened or why, it seemed like the wisest thing to do. I finally made a special recording for our answering machine asking that reporters have the decency and humanity to allow us to grieve privately.

Many of the families of military personnel killed in non-combat situations have had a similar experience. These deaths have often been lurid, unexpected events, which initially drew the attention of the media. Once the entertainment factor wore off, however, and time went by, and actual information was obtained, getting true journalists to take an interest became challenging for us.

Yes, there have been a handful of journalists, interested in the truth, who managed to investigate and report on suspicious cases of non-combat death. Among these were Peter Cary, David Zucchino, Martin Kuz, Mark Benjamin, and even 60 Minutes. The American public’s attention span is short, however, and interest in thoroughly investigating the Military culture that allows uninvestigated murders staged as suicides or accidents (or "friendly fire" or combat deaths as in the Pat Tillman case) has been less than rigorous. Finding media which will publish these inconvenient truths is difficult. This may explain the fact that many very good writers have taken refuge in the “Blogosphere”, where they can self publish important information.

I have to admire the Russian press, spurred on by an organization of Soviet Mothers, which has frankly exposed the murders and suicides of Russian soldiers due to “hazing” and poor living conditions of troops. The coverage has been ongoing, without ceasing. You will be able to find many of these articles by going through the archives on our news page:

The rate of suicides and death and injury of Russian soldiers has decreased significantly as a result of exposure to the light of day.

We can all understand the US Military’s reluctance to expose the fact that there are murderers and other types of criminals in the ranks. The cover-up of specific crimes, however, emboldens perpetrators, who are, after all in situations where weapons are readily available. Group-think and intimidation prevent much whistle blowing in the ranks, as recent news stories about crimes committed by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate.

While it gives me hope that these events have been uncovered, and despite serious attempts to suppress the stories by the Federal Government, I’d like to challenge serious journalists to once again look at the numbers of suspicious non-combat deaths in the US Military and do some serious investigation. We can give you specific information and contacts here. Do it for the sake of our democracy and for the future of freedom of the press in our country.

This is the Home of the Brave, and we know that it will take courage to pursue this challenge.


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