by Cathy Resmer
Thinking this morning about blogging, for the panel tonight.
I just came across this story at Editor and Publisher about a female U.S. servicewoman who killed herself in Iraq after she objected to U.S. interrogation techniques.
She died in September, 2003, but we're reading about it now because a reporter started asking questions about her death. The media originally reported that she died due to a "non-hostile weapons discharge," which is apparently fairly common in Iraq.
But in this case, a longtime radioand newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, unsatisfied with the publicstory, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he toldE&P today. He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military andcouldn't get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Actrequest. When the documents of the official investigation of her deatharrived, they contained bombshell revelations. Here’s what theFlagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston now works, reportedyesterday:
“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniquesused on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nightsworking in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unithave refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objectedto. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed….”
She was was then assigned to the base gate, where shemonitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “Buton the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded sheshot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documentsdisclose.
I bring this up because it's a good example of how a reporter's persistence can bring important information to light when the government (or corporations, or whomever) wishes to suppress it.
I recognize that reporters can work in new media, but I always come back to this point — most good investigative reporting is not cheap. It's rarely done by part-timers or amateurs. It's done by people who have the time and energy to make "hundreds of phone calls" to the military, who have the skills to gather and interpret data, and then spit it back to people in way that they can understand and digest.
I guess my point is that, while I'm all for democratization of media, I also recognize the need to save what's best about traditional media. We need to be able to pay people to do investigative reporting. I know that's not a real newsflash at this point, but it's something to remember as we talk about how great blogs are.