Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NPR and Other National Media Outlets Continue To Ignore The Lavena Johnson Case

An Open Letter To NPR: A Tale Of Two Soldiers

The following is a letter that I sent to NPR last week, regarding the disparity in the news coverage received by Ciara Durkin & Lavena Johnson. While Durkin received a considerable amount of national and international media coverage (almost immediately), Lavena Johnson has received no national media coverage....and her case has been dragging on for 2 years.

What makes Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, or Ciara Durkin more important stories to cover? Why do they garner so much media coverage when stories equally as worthy (if not more so) are ignored?

The purpose of the letter was not to downplay the loss of Durkin or any other soldier... On the contrary, I simply wanted to encourage equal coverage for Johnson's case. I directed the note to NPR's All Things Considered program.

The response that I received from NPR's Ombudsman about 5 days later was less than impressive.

NPR's Response:

Something to the effect... we received your letter and thank you for contacting us. However, we don't have any plans to use this (I assume Lavena) as a story topic. We don't guarantee that we will use story ideas sent in by the public.

It almost appeared to be a generic form letter response... probably not written by staff at all. But that was their response nonetheless.

The letter

To the hosts and executive producers of NPR’s All Things Considered

I am writing to you about your coverage of Ciara Durkin, The Army National Guard soldier who was recently killed in Afghanistan. It is great that NPR and other national media outlets are covering this story. It’s especially important to be vigilant on cases like this one.

However, I have noticed a glaring disparity between the way the media is covering the Durkin case and the way that other similar cases have been covered. The Durkin case immediately hit national news…from ABC, CBS, NPR, etc. In fact, I first learned about this case from an ABC report.

However, the national media, including NPR, never covered the case of Army Pvt. Lavena Johnson. Ciara Durkin had not even been buried yet when the National media jumped all over her story. But Lavena Johnson was brutally killed in Iraq in the Summer of 2005 under very similar circumstances, yet her case has received no national media interest at all. Bloggers have been raising the issue of Lavena Johnson for 2 years. Where was NPR? The Durkin family is calling for answers about Ciara, and rightfully so. And my heart goes out to them. But what about the Johnson family? After 2 years, they are still waiting for the truth about how their daughter was killed and who is responsible for her death.

Why the disparity in the coverage? Yes…the NPR program News and Notes only recently (within the past month or so) mentioned Lavena Johnson and it was a very brief mention during a roundtable discussion… News and Notes is not exactly a top national program on NPR. The fact is, there has been no segment dedicated to her via NPR or any other national news organization. Why haven’t any of the top NPR programs like All Things Considered done any serious reporting on the Lavena Johnson case? It has been one of the biggest stories out of Iraq that has never been covered. Not really the Elephant in the room…but more like the Blue Whale in the room. The ramifications of the Johnson case dwarfs Tillman, Richard Davis, and Jessica Lynch (and a bunch of other stories) all put together.

I would hate to think that race is a contributing factor here. But the major media does have a track record of ignoring the plight of African American women. Durkin gets immediate national news coverage even before she is buried and the family has paid its last respects. Yet Lavena Johnson (no less of an American hero and no less a Patriot) gets zero national news coverage after 2 years? Something is wrong here.

I am not asking NPR to curtail coverage of the Durkin case. These stories need to be brought into the national spotlight. However, I am asking that the producers & hosts of All Things Considered provide the same coverage for the Lavena Johnson story. Lavena and her family deserve the same care, concern and attention as any other soldier or military family. And Mr. & Mrs. Johnson deserve to know the truth about how their daughter died.

Because of the Army’s recent history of cover-ups and of mishandling cases, I am not very confident that it can police itself (via Army Criminal Investigators). In my opinion, the FBI should be the agency handling these types of cases.

Related Posting

The Death of Ciara Durkin

To learn more about the Lavena Johnson case, you can visit the following links:


Who Murdered Pvt. Lavena Johnson?

Why is Tillman getting all the attention? (And why is the Tillman case always brought up and compared with these other cases of women being murdered? Tillman wasn't murdered.... Tillman's case was friendly fire, which happens all the time, although there was a cover-up effort afterwards. Beyond that, there are few similarities).

More on Tillman

The Experience of Women in the Military

America's Forgotten Soldier

Dr. John Johnson Speaks About His Daughter

Recalling Lavena Johnson

Another Bloggers post on Lavena

Lavena's Body exhumed for new autopsy

New Developments in the Lavena Johnson case

LavenaJohnson.com for News and Petition

See Youtube Video Page


rikyrah said...

Thank you AI for sticking with this story and not letting it die.

Brian said...

Thanks Rikyrah...

Angela L. Braden, Writer, Speaker, Professor said...

Yes, AI... You should be commended for your commitment to this story. This young woman's story should not be forgotten. Thanks for keeping the details of her life and death at the front of all of our minds.