The Command Post: Nothing’s Perfect

Well, had to happen sooner or later: I disagree with something done by the fine folks over at Command Post.
Journalist Michael Kelly was killed today in an accident while covering the war as an embedded reporter with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. It goes without saying that this is horrible, and my thoughts and best hopes go to Michael’s wife, children, and all those who counted him as a friend or loved one.
However, at the risk of being dismissed as heartless, I disagree with the Command Post’s decision to run the story on Kelly’s death “above the fold” today with a sticky note which has remained at the top of the front page.
The argument that no one death should be elevated above all the others occurring during this war — from Iraqi civilians to our own soldiers to other nation’s journalists — is so banal it barely merits repeating. Yes, Kelly was a journalist, and by all accounts, a fine one at that. And as such, he is most certainly closer, in some sense, than most of the other unfortunate souls who have lost their lives during this conflict to the authors of the Command Post — including myself.
Singling him out for such treatment, however, raises more questions than it answers. Will every American journalist who dies receive such treatment? Do they have to be a Washington Post columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor to deserve it — or would a stringer from the Podunk Daily Mail get the same honors? How about British reporters? Australians? And why, exactly, is a journalist worthy of such honor, but the American soldiers who sacrificed their lives today (there were at least three) are not?
But for the Command Post, there was another, more serious reason why the above-the-fold treatment was inappropriate: it just wasn’t news.
And news is what the Command Post is all about. Alan, Michele, and the dedicated team of authors that drive the site have done an extraordinary, exceptional job at establishing a straight-ahead, just-the-facts source for breaking news on this war that is second to none. Memorializing Kelly on the front page, while obviously done with the best of intentions and sentiments, distracts from the core mission of the site: to bring together the best sources of breaking news across the media spectrum. Because as tragic as this one man’s death was to all those who knew him: in the perspective of this war, and in the perspective of the world, it simply isn’t a big story.
To be clear: I can’t speak highly enough of the Command Post’s founders, its mission, its authors, and its amazing success over the past weeks. I take it as a small point of pride that I happened to be one of the very first bloggers other than Alan and Michele themselves (the first, I think) to post to the site following the launch. And I carry a similar-sized batch of shame for the fact that I haven’t found myself able to regularly contribute to the site to nearly the degree that I’d like to.
So I hope this will be taken as a constructive critique from one who wishes only the best for the site. I hesitated, for a moment, to post this, feeling a twinge of reluctance to directly criticize the folks that I’m rooting so hard for to succeed.
But I’m a blogger, as are they. And speaking our minds is what we do. It’s all we do. And when we start censoring ourselves — well, we might as well just give up entirely and get ourselves editors.