Few people took the news about Sinclair's decision not to air tonight's Nightline with equanimity. The Poynter letters column has some of the responses. U.S. Senator John McCain gets in on the action with his own statement:
There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.
It is "Nightline's" failure to present the entire story, however, to which Sinclair objects. "Nightline" is not reporting news; it is doing nothing more than making a political statement. In simply reading the names of our fallen heroes, this program has adopted a strategy employed by numerous anti-war demonstrators who wish to focus attention solely on the cost of war. In fact, lest there be any doubt about "Nightline's" motivation, both Mr. Koppel and "Nightline's" executive producer have acknowledged that tonight's episode was influenced by the Life Magazine article listing the names of dead soldiers in Vietnam, which article was widely credited with furthering the opposition to the Vietnam war and with creating a backlash of public opinion against the members of the U.S. military who had proudly served in that conflict.
When not calling the ABC folks liars and ascribing motivations to them, Sinclair was busy asking Ted Koppel for an interview on their program that would cover ... their decision to boycott his program ("Stations to Boycott 'Nightline's' List of the Fallen," WaPo, April 29, 04).
Well, that's one way to guarantee the kind of news coverage you'd want to see -- make the news yourself. For more details on this program by Sinclair about Sinclair, see "Some Stations to Block 'Nightline.'" (NYT, April 30, 04)
Meanwhile, WaPo coverage, Ted Koppel called out WaPo scribe DeMoraes' comments about the show as a ratings stunt in the letters to the editor section, and ABC set a Sinclair runaround in motion in key markets ("ABC Makes End Run Around Conservative Blackout of Nightline," Washingtonian, April 30, 04).
The furor over how to treat the names and/or images of the war dead in the media will probably not die down after tonight. To understand why imagery matters so much, read "Yes, We Can Handle the Truth" (Newsweek, May 3, 04), or "Photos of Coffins Draped in Evasion" (Denver Post, April 29, 04).