Tuesday, April 07, 2009
"First" of the Day: America sees its dead return
Fallen Airman Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers has the grim honor of being the first to be filmed coming home – now that the Obama administration has lifted an 18-year ban on news coverage of the returning war dead at Dover Air Force Base.
Some fear that media coverage of military coffins will convey, or be used to convey, an antiwar message. I hope they're right.
But reporter Dozier presents a more likely
Staff Sgt. Myers was from Hopewell, Va. The 30 year old had been decorated for outstanding service as a military technician, and he’d been awarded a Bronze Star last year, for a previous tour in Iraq.
Now his return to the United States will be marked, noted and remembered in a way few casualties are of late, in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, that have extended far beyond the U.S. public’s average attention span - or the U.S. media’s, for that matter. We all share the blame in that. Dover Air Force press officers have been besieged with phone calls from the press, for the “first one.”
But that blazing attention will quickly fade.
It will quickly happen. Most of our bureaus are in Washington, D.C. It’s a two-hour drive, and most arrivals, defense officials tell us, seem to happen between 9 p.m. and midnight. Our bureau chiefs will have to make that awful economic calculation on whether it’s worth the drive, and the crew overtime, to trek north to film. We, the correspondents and producers, will have to advise them, by doing some horribly grim calculations of our own: trying to match up the latest casualty notice from Afghanistan or Iraq, with the media-granted-permission notices from Dover, to see which death is “newsworthy.”