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At Dover, Now What?

CJR has an explainer of the ins and outs of media access at Dover Air Force Base, now that the Pentagon has lifted its 18-year ban on press coverage of the return of America's war dead. Two of the more interesting details: When casualty officers inform family members of a soldier's death, they must also now ask whether they consent to media coverage of their loved one's stateside arrival; and, if they do consent, the military gives the media only about an eight-hour notice.

“Now that the families are giving their consent, will the media care?” asks Melnyk, who worries that families who consent to coverage, but see no journalists at their loved one’s arrival, may get the impression that the nation does not appreciate their loss. “It ain’t going to be news in a month.”

In this time of shriking news budgets, I can understand why media outlets might be hard-pressed to cover these ceremonies. But eight hours notice is still enough time to get at the very least a photographer to Dover from D.C. or Philly or New York, and I think it's important that, if a family does consent to media coverage of the stateside return of their loved one's remains, some media is there to cover it, lest Melnyk's fear comes true. These families have already been through enough grief; they don't need more of it.

--Jason Zengerle