Reporting the injured/wounded: Credit where credit is due

“Of those 11 Canadian dead since January, six were killed in IED, or improvised explosive device, strikes or suicide bombings – roughly on target with the appalling casualties inflicted upon U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq, where about 60 per cent occur the same way.
Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry also died in a Jan. 15 suicide bombing, and of the 25 soldiers injured this year, the most catastrophic injuries – two soldiers have lost both legs, for instance – also came in such bombings.” – Christie Blatchford, Globe and Mail, July 25th

July 25

Dear Ms. Blatchford,

Over the past few months I have been reading your columns with great interest. Of all the journalists in Afghanistan I would say that you have been one of the most supportive of our troops. However, with your recent column you missed the mark. Since you have been on the ground for nearly two months I would assume it’s a typo when you said that only 25 soldiers have been injured this year.
Sadly the number is much larger than that.
Since January there have been reported to be more than 50 soldiers injured – and that number does not include those injured while on missions away from the media glare.
Although I am not commenting on the current mission, you should be aware that in the past the Defence Department has made an effort to underreport the number of casualties. One example that comes to mind was in 1996 when Captain Bob Kennedy, the editor of the army’s Garrison newspaper, decided to publish a list of Canadians injured while serving in Yugoslavia. Upon publishing this list he was bombarded with a series of letters from soldiers complaining that they were not included. And this wasn’t just guys who were bruised or cut their finger, in one case, a Lt. Cam Ellis, had to undergo massive reconstructive surgery after his vehicle hit a landmine – he was not listed as a casualty. As such, Capt. Kennedy’s list quickly jumped from 84 to 116 soldiers, and the letters kept coming. In his research Capt. Kennedy uncovered a series of incidents that the former CP reporter felt were deliberately omitted. Finally, after doing an interview with CBC about this subject, DND fired him.
Anyway, I just thought I would pass this information on since I’m sure that in your efforts to support our men and women in harm’s way you would not want to unintentionally insult some by underreporting the number that have suffered for our mission in Afghanistan.


“Mea culpa: In a recent story, I wrote that 25 Canadians have been injured in Afghanistan this year. Though the accurate number is hard to come by – the military doesn’t release names of the wounded due to privacy regulations – it’s probably twice that big. The last thing these folks need is to have their experience underestimated in any way. I apologize.” Christie Blatchford, Globe and Mail, July 29

1 comment

  1. I appreciate that the mea culpa goes beyond the impersonal “incorrect numbers appeared in a story on A1…” and that it comes at the end of her article giving it the prominence a correction deserves.

    The style and stance in her reporting is frustrating for me as a journalism student. What kind of example does she set saying she is sad to leave Afghanistan due to “the peculiar sense of responsibility that it appears I’ve acquired by osmosis from our soldiers there, the feeling that to leave is akin to quitting on the country.”

    When a reporter admits to feeling a shared mission with the troops than it should be obvious to everyone the diminished value of the reporting and analysis. Reporters are supposed to be there as witnesses and to provide background and context to opposing sides. By simply picking a side and sticking to it Blatchford defeats the purpose of the foreign correspondent.

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