Former Star Tribune editor says paper should have run dying Marine photo

Post-script to my Tuesday post about the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press not running a controversial photo of Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard after he was mortally wounded in Afghanistan:

Tim McGuire
Tim McGuire

Tim McGuire, the Strib’s editor from 1992 to 2002 and now an Arizona State journalism professor, writes on his blog:

I was surprised at how many editors refused to run the photo. I was particularly interested that neither of the Twin Cities papers ran with it….

As much as we want to be compassionate, news outlets cannot let the family make the call and the government request should not be decisive in any way.

My personal opinion is this war has been sanitized far too much as it is. Wars continue until they disturb the public. The two wars our country is fighting now have not appalled enough people to end them. News media hiding photos like this one is not in the interest of open and healthy dialogue. I was fascinated that in this story the AP saved quotes from soldiers who argued the war has been sanitized until the end of the story. 

Now, McGuire says some nice things about me in his post (adding that I was too nice in my post). But at the risk of sounding uncharitable, I couldn’t remember an image like this running during his tenure — which, to be fair, began after the first Gulf War and ended before the second.

So I asked if he’d run anything similar when he was editor.

“I thought about parallels, but I am afraid my memory is not that good,” McGuire says. “Certainly we published some very tough pictures on 9/11. I freely admit second-guessing is easier than sitting in the chair.”

He concluded with an inference that bad economic times make papers more cautious. “I also understand that there is simply no comparing these times with my times — politically or financially. That’s why I think of what I am doing as cheerleading for making the tough choices.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Matt Linngren on 09/10/2009 - 10:40 pm.

    Check out Mischke’s column in this week’s City Pages for his outstanding take on the issue!

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