A letter from the editor regarding the war crimes opinion story

Yesterday, on September 27, I published an opinion essay titled, “Bergdahl’s sentence was dismissed but other warriors are still behind bars.” I take full responsibility for the decision to publish this story and knew it would be controversial to do so.

As expected, there was passionate pushback from our readers on Twitter, as well as fellow reporters in the military-defense space. I’m not afraid of a little controversy, but I do expect even our opinion essays to be based on factually accurate information — we owe our readers nothing less. After a few of our readers pointed out inconsistencies, I went back through the story with a fine-toothed comb and found enough errors that I can no longer stand by the essay, and have unpublished it.

I should have edited this story with the same rigor before it was published, not after our readers called attention to my lackluster editing. The subject matter is heavy and deserves more attention to detail. I fell short of what is expected of me as the chief editor.

That being said, you may wonder why I even considered the story in the first place. It’s a fair question, and I’m happy to explain. 

As a publication that covers the military and conflict, and does so with a focus on American military service members and veterans, I think it’s necessary to talk about the subjects service members and veterans talk about, oftentimes in hushed tones and ‘just between us…’. Not just the veterans that I or anyone on the staff agrees with, but everyone in the community. 

I felt this opinion essay spoke to a topic I’ve heard talked about in hushed tones for a long time. The ROE is too strict, or they sent us there to kill so that’s what we did, or there’s no such thing as a war crime when war itself is a crime or they aren’t war criminals, they’re just victims of the system. And on and on and on, often much darker and more brutal — not unlike the combat many experience. I don’t have to agree with those sentiments to acknowledge that there is a significant portion of combat veterans who feel or have felt that way. They may not run in your social circles, but they exist.

Because these opinions exist, I felt we shouldn’t shy away from their existence, and if there was an outcry against them, that’s a good thing. At least, that’s where my head was at. Unfortunately, this story wasn’t capable of broaching that topic effectively, because too many of the sentiments were based on false pretenses. I was wrong to publish it.

You can and should expect better from me, personally, as the editor of Task and Purpose. I don’t promise to avoid controversial opinions and essays, or not try to push you out of your comfort zone as a reader. But I do promise to be more rigorous in the editing process and never let a story see the light of day until it has endured the most intense scrutiny our talented staff is capable of.

From the battlefield to the barracks,

Marty Skovlund Jr.

Editor-in-chief, Task & Purpose

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Source link: https://taskandpurpose.com/opinion/letter-from-editor-task-purpose/ by Marty Skovlund Jr. at taskandpurpose.com