Don't Forget—It's a good story. Pat Tillman, a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, left the NFL and penned his name to a stint with the Army Rangers, forgoing a $3.6 million contract. Talk about your American hero. That move's got football, war and sacrifice all in one.
The tale took a dark turn when Tillman was killed Thursday, April 24, 2004 in Afghanistan. He "gave up the American dream to defend it," says the Albuquerque Journal headline from two days later. A year passed, and it was uncovered that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. As former News Editor Tim McGivern pointed out last year [Thin Line, "Puke," June 9-15, 2005], the Journal failed to cover fallout from the discovery. Instead, caught up in the patriotic fervor of the day, the news that the Army lied about Tillman's death was swept under a star-spangled rug.
Well, earlier this month, our morning daily was left standing on the shore watching the same boat sail away. On Thursday, Nov. 9, the Associated Press released a report, titled "Startling Findings in Tillman Probe," which presents vital details on Tillman's demise and the Army's mishandling of the situation. It notes that one of the four U.S. rangers in the incident had just undergone laser eye surgery. None of the shooters identified their target before firing on Tillman. Three of the four rangers are no longer in the Army, placing them beyond the reach of military justice.
That's only the beginning. The story, by Scott Lindlaw and Martha Mendoza, is pages long, illuminating Army slipups that may have contributed to the football star's death, as well as new information about its subsequent coverup. The story appears on the Journal's site, but I scoured both the Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 editions of the paper and couldn’t find it. Granted, we have election gossip to wade through, but it seems the paper is showing its bias.
Remember the hero's tale from two years ago, splashed on the front page? The new discoveries regarding Tillman’s ugly death received no more than a Web mention, as best I can tell.
This apparent slant in the Journal’s opinion of what constitutes a good cover story points to a much larger problem shared by much of American media. The juicy bits, the immediate impact of high-attention dramas, are covered. But years later, when the harsher (and oftentimes complicated) issues surrounding the stories are flushed out, they’re no longer page 1 fodder. When the investigation is finally complete, the sparkle of the drama has worn dull, and the news organizations believe you—the readers, listeners and viewers—don't want to know the dirty, technical details.
It's those details that deserve your attention—they affect all our troops, not just the famous ones.