The Human Decency Doctrine For Wartime Reporting

When did the Language of War become so insensitive and pop-'culturized'?

You hear it with everyone from Wolf Blitzer to Peter Jennings. It used to be that the use of 'trendy' Language in the context of war topics was left to, well, Bloggers and bloggerheads. But now, with mainstream media crossing the gap to pick up the nasty habit too, there's an atrocious banter going on around some horrific moments of Our lives -- that's right -- Yours & Mine.

Today's abuse is pretty hard to miss. With a devastating attack on a U.S. military base near Mosul, killing and wounding untold numbers of U.S. and coalition troops, contractors, and civilians, the news was promptly discussed as a "Lucky Strike" on Mosul.

Macabre to you too? I mean, whose side are they/we on?

Why, oh why, was it not called a "Massacre at Mosul?"

OK, we get it that from the Insurgents' perspective, any successful and unanticipated assault on troops like ours who were eating their meals, could feel like a 'high five' moment. But please oh please, do NOT report it as "High Five for the Insurgent Team" because folks, this is NOT football or basketball! [A Sunday morning news program included one jughead who was so enthusiastic in his play-by-play discussion of the unfolding of the campaign leading up to the January elections, that he used every football metaphor I've ever heard. Even the all-male panel was somewhat speechless for a second or two.]

The 'Lucky Strike' remark was bad enough but then the wolf-hound went on to question a retired General about the soft-sided facility where the troops were eating, if they weren't out there like so many, "sitting ducks."

Listen up, more than 20+ families are going to get some pretty awful news this week and having a metaphor like 'sitting ducks' anywhere in the archives is just plain boorish. Nobody needs to hear it or think it because better judgment should prevail by the professionals who are reporting news. If there is a news item or an investigation into the armoring of camps, then fine, relate that topic to their vulnerability. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

For those of us who haven't been to A.N.Y. School of Journalism but have a Fair Amout of Common Sense and can educate those poor fools who couldn't be trained about what we know, here are our basic principles -- let's call it --

The Human Decency Doctrine for Wartime Reporting

1. No use of cliches, metaphors or pop culture references (songs, movies, games) in the coverage of military assaults, kidnappings, beheadings, prisoners-of-war, heroic acts, lost limbs, etc.

2. When in doubt about showing pictures of human remains or humans in shock in response to the remains of their comrades, err on the side of not showing. If it's newsworthy, 72 hours later, ask permission of the commanding officer, the troop shown, and the next of kin, if they have been notified and with a military chaplain present. [Note: you won't get past the first checkpoint.]

3. Do not use Toll-free number or Internet polls to ask Americans what should happen to Sadden Hussein or Chemical Ali. This is not the 'Bachelorette' and we don't want you to use the characters of war and us to become part of Your Sweeps Week.

4. If you have gone to the time and trouble to track down an Expert to talk to Viewers and their perspective is valuable, let him/her speak. Shut up already! Tell your sponsors that you may be going over the normal time for advertising breaks because Real Life just doesn't fit neatly around 30 or 60 second segments for cellular telephone service or department stores.

5. Cover (photograph and text with date) every casket that returns to the states. Every life matters. Show some respect. Show them coming home.

Do you have others to add?
Write and we'll send a new & improved list to the AP, the network owners, major network sponsors, and the FCC.

Let's stake our claim on this piece of the Airwaves. They were intended for You and Me.
Together, we can make a difference.