‘WaPo’ Explains Soldier’s Gay Omission

Deborah Howell had her work cut out for her this Sunday. The Washington Post ombudsman had to explain why her paper did not mention fallen American soldier Major Alan Rogers‘ homosexuality.

Rogers died in Iraq early this year and, according to his friends, begrudgingly hid his homosexuality under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Those same friends say Rogers would have wanted his untimely death to highlight our army’s unfair treatment of gays.

Howell explained yesterday, however, that the original story did include Rogers’s homosexuality, but Executive Editor Len Downie made the call to excise that tidbit because “there was no proof that Rogers was gay and no clear indication that, if he was, he wanted the information made public.”

Howell goes on to defend Downie’s decision, which is in line with the Post’s editorial standard on sexuality: it shouldn’t be mentioned unless absolutely integral. Not all gay activists, the paper believes, are gay, which is definitely true.

Though she doesn’t criticize Downie outrightly, Howell does some more digging into Rogers’ life – including chatting with other activist friends – and concludes that the story would have been “richer” with more details on Rogers’ private life.

The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence — particularly of Rogers’s feelings about “don’t ask, don’t tell” — to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.

Now that the story’s out, perhaps Rogers’ death can do some actual good…

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  • Jaroslaw

    I thought he was an activist working to overturn the DADT policy. If so, then put that in. You don’t have to be Gay to oppose DADT. It is a huge waste of time, money and talent to enforce.

  • M Shane

    DADT is not ‘enforced as such. It only tells people that if they want to fight they have to lie well. It’s a morally reprehensable law if anything. The real story is that to fight in the American Army the guy had to lie about who he was. Although the war is criminal, and he didn’t belong there in the first place, the principle should be pointed out-on top of lieing he ended up dying .
    Can you imagine if they made that a qualification for employment DADT.

  • Jaroslaw

    M Shane – if you’re replying to me, thanks, but I have no clue what you’re trying to say. “not enforced as such?” OK, they don’t check each and every servicemember on a weekly basis but the military certainly does investigations and spends gobs on money on them and drums out people that have been invested in heavily then turns the tables and asks these same people to pay back their training. Yes, the law is reprehensible – I think anyone on this blog would concur with that. And your last sentence “can you imagine if they made that a qualification for employment DADT.” What are you trying to say there? Thanks.

  • Peter Pan

    Should Slain Soldier’s Sexuality Have Been Published?

    No! No need to state whether he was gay, straight or whatever. The man is dead. Let him rest!

  • kiltnc

    DADT is more that our right to serve and fight. It’s about human rights. How can the Repugs tell us we are not worthy to have equal rights after we have served this country as service members?

    In reference to the Major, it should be notated that he was was working to remove DADT. They should make note of that on his OBIT.

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