Editorial: Why we ran story about court-martialed Southold Marine

09/27/2012 8:00 AM |

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola

Why did we print it?

Why did we run a page 1 story about a local soldier who’s being court-martialed for desecrating the body of a fallen Taliban fighter in Afghanistan? Two main reasons.

First, there’s an obvious local angle to an international story. But second, and most important, we are obligated to do so. Although another news organization has co-opted the term “fair and balanced,” that’s the credo that drives our coverage. And since we ran a rather complimentary story last year on the party the family of Marine Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola threw for him, fairness and balance dictate that if we cover the good we must not ignore the bad.

We’ve received criticism for our online coverage of the Deptola case, including why a local paper is smearing the reputation of a local man, a 2003 Southold High School graduate, who is doing a heroic job while facing death every day in a far-off, horrific conflict. Of all the dark and deadly things that transpire under the fog of war, does this really rise to the level the press has set it in?

There’s no effort under way to smear or prejudge Staff Sgt. Deptola or cast all veterans in an unfavorable light. He did indeed answer his country’s call and volunteered to serve and unselfishly put himself in harm’s way for a purpose and a cause much larger than himself.
But he’s also been accused of an offense that, as incredible as it sounds, carries geopolitical implications.

Still, his case has yet to be heard. When it is, and when the verdict is in, we’ll report the outcome, whatever it may be.