National Public Radio’s reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan has been justifiably honored. But it came under scrutiny recently with reports on the death in Afghanistan of a 23-year-old Navajo Marine from Rock Point, Ariz.
NPR’s Kabul correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was embedded with the Marines India Company 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, included in her report details of how the young man died.
The piece provoked comment from listeners who found it both moving, and intrusive, according to this NPR review of the matter.
Although the Marine’s family knew of his death, they didn’t know NPR was planning the piece.
“The only complaint we, as the family, have is that we were not notified about the broadcast,” his sister-in-law tells NPR. “It was quite a shock when we actually heard the story then heard the moment he was killed from the audio. It was too graphic for us to hear.”
She also says she wishes the NPR had not used his name, out of respect for Navajo culture.
As she tells NPR:
“In our Navajo tradition, once we lay him to rest we cannot talk about his passing anymore,” said his sister-in-law on March 4. “Culturally his spirit will not be at ease if we keep hearing about his death…It is hard for all of us to grieve the loss of [name withheld] with all this media attention it is getting and we know that this is not what he would have wanted. He was not the type of person to have wanted all this attention.”
This story is fraught with ethical issues. Should NPR have aired the moment of death? Should his name be aired? Should NPR have notified the family before the piece aired?
NPR’s review of the matter notes there are no easy answers. This blog has printed the names of Navajo soldiers and Marines killed in combat, usually linking to the stories in the Navajo Times mentioning those names. In a story involving this particular Marine, the Times noted that the family asked that his name not be made public. Thoughts?