More “who’s a journalist?”

This crushing segment from Bill Dwyre’s excellent LA Times piece upon seeing the documentary of Pat Tillman’s death at the hands of fellow soldiers on a hill in Afghanistan six years ago. The film follows the pursuit of truth by Tillman’s mother, Dannie.

Dannie Tillman did what a nation full of high-paid, overblown journalists should have done. She went after the real story while the beautiful people on TV and the nerds with notepads broadcast and wrote morality plays. She got in the military’s face, in the government’s face. She didn’t let up. She was doing journalism while journalists were doing what we mostly do now — chase Web hits and take short cuts to higher profits.

A housewife got the real story, or as much of it as anybody probably will. Professionals trained to do so gathered moss and wrote slop.

So again, journalism is practiced by many who are outside the velvet rope of the institution. Dwyre indicts himself in the piece, and it’s a most worthwhile read.


  1. Amir Bar-Lev e‑mailed me to say his Sundance documentary, “The Tillman Story,” was pretty hard on the Democratic Congress for their role in the aftermath of Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death.

    In contrast, Jon Krakauer’s book, “Where Men Win Glory,” only blamed the Bush administration and Army. However, the cover-up was actually a thoroughly bi-partisan affair. In particular, the Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency protected General Stanley McChrystal from punishment for his role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death.

    The documents at describe how General McChrystal has been protected by Congressman Henry Waxman, Senator James Webb (along with Senators Carl Levin and John McCain), the New York Times Reporter Thom Shanker, the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum, and President Obama.

    It’s not surprising that after the initial cover-up fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. But after they took control of both Houses in 2006, the Democratic Congress could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them!

    Just before the 2006 mid-term elections, Kevin Tillman published his eloquent letter, “After Pat’s Birthday” ( Kevin hoped a Democratic Congress would bring accountability back to our country. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping and torture, those responsible for the cover-up of his brother’s friendly-fire death have never been held accountable for their actions.

    Five years ago, Pat Tillman’s family were handed a tarnished Silver Star. It was a travesty of justice that General McChrystal was promoted to the Army’s highest rank, and handed his fourth star.

  2. Terry -

    thank you for sharing this. A good post — and the odds of me landing on this on the LA Times by myself vere pretty slim… You are so right about the way we work nowadays: trying to maximize hits on the site, gather moss and write slop. Makes me sad and ashamed.
    Roy Gutmann said after he won Pulizer years ago: “The story that matters is what happens to people”. How right he was — and still we seem to forget it.

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