We didn’t expect seven years of deaths
THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Regrettably, over the past couple of weeks we have found ourselves again writing story after story about local service members killed in a faraway war zone.
Seven South Sound soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan since Aug. 18.
Spanaway resident 1st Sgt. Jose Crisostomo was serving with the headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force when he was killed this month.
Six others who died – Pfc. Dennis M. Williams, Pfc. Jonathan Yanney, Spc. Troy Tom, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald W. Sawyer, Capt. John L. Hallett III and Capt. Cory J. Jenkins of Arizona – were assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, part of Fort Lewis’ 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The 3,900-person Stryker brigade is fighting the Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan.
When U.S. forces went into Afghanistan in 2001 and then into Iraq two years later, we decided The News Tribune would run a front-page story on the death of every soldier who was from the South Sound or was stationed here. The prominence was a way to honor the sacrifice of local soldiers and to keep our community informed of the local consequences of these overseas battles.
Our first loss was Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman of Puyallup, who died in Afghanistan on Jan. 4, 2002. We had no idea at the time that our coverage decision would still be playing out seven years later.
A front-page commitment is no small thing. While slow news days happen, most of the time we have plenty of news with which to fill the front page – typically three or four stories. But we decided that no matter how big the other news, at least one story would be bumped to make room for a story about a local service member killed in action. As far as I know, we haven’t missed one.
We try to get as much information as we can for that initial story, but depending on when the news breaks, it sometimes contains little more than the service member’s name and hometown.
Once we receive word of a death – typically from the Department of Defense after notification of next of kin – we reach out to family members. Those calls are never easy, and we respect the wishes of those who don’t want to talk to us. But almost always a relative is grateful for the opportunity to tell us about a lost son or daughter or husband or wife. When a service member is not from here, we often go to the hometown newspaper for information. If another reporter already has talked to the family, it’s a way we can spare them from another media call.
Many readers have expressed appreciation for the way we have covered our war dead, but occasionally someone accuses us of overplaying the stories to further a political agenda. Ironically, some say it shows a pro-war bias while others say we are playing up the deaths to incite opposition to the war.
We simply see it as important local news.
TNT military reporter Scott Fontaine maintains a searchable online database of Washington state war casualties. You can access it at: wwwb.thenewstribune.com/databases/
We’ve started migrating our blogs to new software called WordPress, which means regular readers will need to update their bookmarks and RSS readers. (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and allows readers to subscribe to automatic blog feeds.)
All blogs hosted at “blogs.thenewstribune.com” will move to “blog.thenewstribune.com” – the only difference is the dropped “s” in blogs.
A couple of our blogs also will be changing paths, including Ernest Jasmin’s music blog Tacoma Rock City (/ej changed to /tacoma rockcity) and the TNT Opinion blog (/oped changed to /opinion).
As we move each blog, we will post the new blog address and RSS address.
Why change to new software? The upgrade includes the following features:
• More support for embedded audio and video clips.
• A “share this” feature allowing you an easy way to e-mail, print or blog a post or share it on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
• A tag cloud that shows the most-blogged current topics.
• Each post has an RSS feed generated so you can keep track of comments made on individual posts by subscribing to its feed.
• A new mobile interface makes it easier to read blogs on your mobile device.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434