Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is Chris Henry more important than our troops?

Come on, media, this is what I'm talking about.

Chris Henry, a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals who was often in trouble with the law or suspended by the league during his turbulent NFL career, died after falling out of a pickup truck during an apparent domestic dispute.

Of course, Henry's death is tragic and we pray for his family. I mean no disrespect to his loved ones as they grieve. But why, when I visit some of the most prominent American news websites like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and Yahoo, do I see the story of his death everywhere and nothing about actual fallen heroes like Xhacob Latorre or Anthony Campbell?

These men sacrificed everything for their country. They may not have been able to score touchdowns, but they could withstand extreme temperatures in Afghanistan carrying heavy gear. They left their families to protect American freedom and help the Afghans struggle for theirs. While of course Henry's death is a compelling story that should be reported, there is no reason why his death can get extensive attention from national journalists while recent, relevant stories of sacrifice like the ones highlighted don't.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going on right now, as we speak. Neither is an "old" story. Millions of people's lives are at stake and thousands of military families are worried about their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives. It's time for the media to step up and pay attention to the men and women fighting the war with the same zeal as the tragic story of an NFL wide receiver.


  1. Ummm. An NFL player dying is news...Like it or not.

    Why are you comparing one death to another? What are you going to do next, start mesuring column inches devoted to celebrity deaths versus those in Iraq?

    Plus way back when the war started, the media coverage has been severly hampered. Reporters have to be "imbedded" in order to be there...and everything coming out of those nations is severly censored by the military.

  2. Thanks for your comment, burymore. Two things: I am not comparing Henry's death to the deaths of troops, I am comparing the media coverage. And I agree with you that an NFL player's death is news, which is why I wrote "While of course Henry's death is a compelling story that should be reported..." My question is, why can't both be covered by the national press? And does Henry deserve MORE coverage than a fallen hero?

  3. What I am not getting here is the concept of "more coverage".

    You are part of the would you cover war deaths? That each death require front page coverage on an individual basis?

    Its just odd that you are trying to create some sort of comparison between a celebrity death..(And a very odd one at that) versus wartime deaths.

    There is also this issue.........when newspapers cover soldiers deaths there is a LOT of upset people, because there is the idea that the media is sensationalising those deaths.

    So you tell do you cover a death like Chris Henrys, without incurring your idea that its too much? And how does a national media group cover the deaths of soldiers, that no one outside of their immediate family and friends, know about? Is writing a front page story about every military death your method here?

  4. Chris Henry got front page coverage by CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and Yahoo today. These are news outlets, not sports or entertainment sites.

    Henry was a modestly known NFL player, and arguably known more for his off-the-field troubles than anything he accomplished as a player. Yet can you honestly name a fallen U.S. servicemember who has received as much attention from the national media as Chris Henry did today? The one that jumps out in my mind is Pat Tillman, and we can all see the parallel there.

    My point is not to diminish Henry's death, which again, is tragic. The issue is that a football player who was not a household name gets front page attention from the national media, while individual stories of U.S. troops barely end up on any page.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  5. Sigh...

    Chris Henry was far more a household name than any soldier since Tillman to die in service of his country. That, and of course the odd nature of his death, is what made it news. One month from now, it will not be reported on anywhere. The war in Iraq will be right there still.

    You did not answer my questions. How would you cover servicemen deaths? Are you honestly calling for front page stories on every serviceman to die? Its a harsh reality, but when you have three or four thousand young men die in a war, its not news anymore when another one or two die in a week.

    So how would you cover it? Would you not have the Chis Henry story not covered by anything but the sports outlets? Would you have CNN and Fox ignore it? Or would you have every serviceman's death be given multiple column stories?

    I honestly do not get your blog, is my point here. What would you have done differently if you were in charge?

  6. "Chris Henry was far more a household name than any soldier since Tillman to die in service of his country."

    Yes, and that's why I brought up that point, which is that in my view, the wrong people are becoming "household names" because of the media.

    "Would you not have the Chis Henry story not covered by anything but the sports outlets?"

    I already said in my blog post and in this comments section that I thought Henry's death merited a responsible amount of coverage.

    "Are you honestly calling for front page stories on every serviceman to die?"

    Yes. If Chris Henry can be a front page story, then someone who gives up his or her life can be given the same courtesy. I've worked in many newsrooms and know how easily this could happen. There are more than enough reporters at news outlets who could be assigned to cover these stories instead of tabloid stories that don't directly impact people's lives. Hope I answered your question.

    "What would you have done differently if you were in charge?"


    Please feel free to vote in the site's poll, which asks "Do you think the American media devotes enough time to U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan?" You apparently may be the first person out of 32 to vote "yes." While I disagree with your point of view, I respect it, and thanks for participating.