The corporate press is not well-known in 2021 for journalistic integrity. ABC News has pressed the bar even lower recently by misappropriating a U.S. Marine’s personal writing about his experiences in Afghanistan and the suicide bombing attack at the Kabul airport as U.S. forces were evacuating Americans and allies in preparation for complete withdrawal.
The agency took a Facebook post by Marine Cpt. Geoff Ball packaged it as an op-ed column on its website. The problem is that they didn’t ask Ball’s permission to use his work.
Marine veteran and journalist Paul Szoldra noted the unauthorized publication in a Twitter post on August 30. Cpt. Ball told Szoldra that ABC did not contact him about using his work or name on a byline. He noted that ABC went so far as to create an “author profile” page using his name without permission.
.@abcnews published an "op-ed” by Marine Capt. Geoff Ball today without his permission.
Ball wrote this in a Facebook post and was not contacted by ABC about putting his name on a byline, he tells me. They even created an author profile for him. pic.twitter.com/56TVnIzA4J
— Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) August 30, 2021
Cpt. Ball was in command of Ghost Company on August 26 as it was looking for Americans and green card holders in Kabul in need of evacuation assistance. His Facebook post described his unit’s work with other U.S. and U.K. troops pulling people out of a drainage canal when the first suicide bomb was detonated.
Ball’s post said that nine of his troops gave their lives, and almost 20 members of his company were wounded during the attack. He said that he “had not believed that he could ever be more proud of his troops than he was during the previous week handling chaotic and surging crowds, but they proved me wrong.”
ABC News created a title for the misappropriated work and captioned it “Opinion,”
Szoldra added another post noting that Ball’s Facebook post is public and it is newsworthy. While anyone can write about it, using his work under his name without his permission is the same ethically as taking Facebook posts from family members of troops killed in action and publishing them as op-eds without their knowledge or consent. Szoldra called ABC News’ actions “beyond the pale.”
Szoldra also noted that ABC News removed the post after he flagged it as improperly credited work.