How should journalists respond to bin Laden’s death?

By David Thomas

Can I celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death?

This question does not come out of my practicality side, but my philosophical. And it has nothing to do with my patriotism, but with my desired career path as a journalist.

As a journalist, I am supposed to remain fair and objective, while valuing accuracy above all else. I have my personal views on a variety of topics, but when I am working, those are not even supposed to be considered.

But it’s one thing to remain neutral and objective on a subject like abortion or even political parties. Can I attempt to be objective in something like the death of a man who has inspired so much hatred and destruction?

Other newspapers have made their views well-known:

Philadelphia Daily News: “We Got The Bastard!”

Tampa Bay Times: “Got Him (Shot Him)!”

Chicago Sun-Times/St. Petersburg Times/Newsday/The Virginian Pilot: “Dead”

Edmonton Sun: “Burn In Hell!”

Southtown Star: “Bin Laden; We Win At Last”

The Citizens’ Voice: “Bin Laden is Dead”

Daily Press: “Osama is Dead”

The Examiner: “The butcher of 9/11 is DEAD”

And finally, the cream of the crop, from The New York Daily News: “ROT IN HELL!”

I fully understand why Americans are excited about his death. If I were in Washington, D.C. or near Ground Zero in New York City, I would have gone out too, singing the National Anthem and chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

It’s not that I am a sick, sadistic person. My personal belief: I do believe what Osama bin Laden did was wrong and evil. To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson: Yes, he deserved to die and I hope he burns in hell.

But does this compromise my journalistic integrity? Suppose in 10 years, I am interviewing some person who believes that bin Laden was right and that the Sept. 11 attacks were morally justifiable.

Can I continue the interview in good faith? To relate a personal anecdote, I noticed I began to lose my composure when I began to have a discussion about 9/11 with a German businessman I met in Washington, D.C. It did not get ugly, but even I noted how defensive I became when even the notion of 9/11 being “planned” by the U.S. government was mentioned.

I do not have the answer here. This is really more of an eternal struggle. On the one hand, I have my journalistic duty. But on the other hand, I am a human being. And as a human being, I have my biases and my opinions.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens at the interview.