About once a week, some reader is kind enough to forward something from the Internet that shows what an absolutely abysmal job the news media is doing on some topic or another.
Sometimes the complaint involves not telling them that Barack
Obama was really born in
Other times it involves stories of the military and military heroism, which the e-mail’s anonymous author insists the NEWS MEDIA WILL NEVER TELL YOU.
As someone who covers the military for a paper, and sometimes writes about local veterans who’ve done remarkable things (they’re leery about calling themselves heroes, so I generally don’t) it is mildly annoying to suggest any newspaper would pass up a good story of heroism. They’re much better to write than, say, a story about zoning policy or sewer rates.
The real reason we usually haven’t told the story in the forwarded e-mail is …
…because some aspect of it isn’t true. (Imagine that, something on the Internet that isn’t true.)
Take the story of the late Ed Freeman, a decorated Army helicopter pilot from the Vietnam War, who an e-mail currently on its fifth or sixth iteration says didn’t get the media coverage he deserves.
That Freeman was a hero for flying his helicopter in and out of
the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, when members of the 1st Cavalry were vastly
outnumbered and pinned down by withering fire, is not in question. Whether the
Army fully recognized it at the time might be, considering he got the
Distinguished Service Cross back then, but wasn’t awarded the Medal of Honor
until 2001. And when President Bush gave him the nation’s highest military
honor, newspapers all over the country, including The Spokesman-Review,
reported that – as it did in 2007 when another pilot, Bruce Crandall of
The battle may sound familiar because it was the basis for the movie “We Were Soldiers” in which Freeman was played by Mark McCracken.
Toward the bottom of the e-mail is often a mention of someone else who died the same day and got more – and decidedly much less deserved – coverage, so you know about him but not Freeman. For a while it was Paul Newman, even though they died several weeks apart.
“Medal of Honor Recipient
Ed Freeman died on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, at the age of 80, in
(Just checking: Other than aliens like me and Obama, do any Americans have blood that isn’t red?)
There is one minor factual problem with that part of the message.
Freeman didn’t die on March 25. He died last August in
Like many Internet stories that survive through the repeated forwarding to multiple addresses, the date of his death may keep changing to make it more relevant. Some versions say “last Wednesday”, which may have been true when the anonymous author first sent it off into cyberspace.
March was when Congress named a Post Office for him in
This isn’t to suggest readers should stop sending notes that show how bad we’ve screwed up. Just realize we’ll double check them, even if you don’t.