Special Online Coverage of ‘Pendleton Eight’ Iraq Atrocity Case on NCTimes.com

By: E&P Staff

NCTimes.com, the online hub of the North County Times of Escondido, Ca., recently unveiled a special section on its Web site devoted to the paper’s coverage of the so-called Pendleton Eight. The Web page includes video, photographs of the accused, and an archive of the Times’ coverage of the case.

As E&P reported in its August issue, the North County Times is one of several papers across the nation covering local troops accused of committing war crimes in Iraq. The eight men of Camp Pendleton are accused of killing a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi man in Hamdania, Iraq. The Times has devoted considerable coverage to this case, and the newly constructed page — titled “Ongoing Coverage: Hamdania” — is a testament to that.

“It’s something we do with all our major coverage,” online editor Andrew Kleske told E&P. “Being a military town, a military region, we thought that this is one that would merit” the presentation of a special report page.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the Times’ special report page is the introduction of video reporting. The Times already uses streaming video on its website for both news and entertainment segments. But for this case, the Times placed a video camera with staff photographer Bill Wechter as he sat with the families of two of the accused men. The resulting footage adds a great deal of emotion to an already heartrending article by staff writers Teri Figueroa and Mark Walker.

“With a story that has such gravity, we feel we need to make a special effort to cover it,” Kleske said. “So we’ll do it with audio, video, snapshots sometimes, if that’s all that’s available.”

This story lent itself towards video, Kleske added, because the readers would be able to hear and observe for themselves the reactions of these military families.

Being that Hamdania is such a high-profile case, the ease of access to the Times’ entire coverage of the events helps national readers as well, said Kleske.

The North County Times’ ongoing coverage of the Hamdania cases is located here.

The message board for the most recent story in the archives includes these diverse comments on July 26:

— “Does anyone have any suggestions as to who we should write to protest this diabolical decision to prosecute these soliders. Should we write our congressman? Senator? Who has the influence to turn this around and adhere to a modicum of common sense? There are very few people we can trust in Iraq. Sad but true. They do not seem to want to embrace democracy, nor do the seem to want a productive society. They do seem to embrace havoc and chaos. The thought of taking any allegations from this population and charging the very men that are trying to help bring some sort of order there is absolutely ludicrous! What can we do to stop this madness? Who can we write?”

— “Excuse me, who actually started the chaos and havoc in Iraq? Who actually decided it was time to shove democracy down the throat of every Iraqi citizen whether they wanted it or not. Don’t like the outcome now that you found out the mission really WASN’T accomplished? Swaggering and boasting not working so well for you anymore? You people really need to get a grip on reality, and quit confusing the insurgents with the civilians who are trying to live some semblence of a normal life. Contempt breeds hate and hate breeds ignorance.”

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