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Archive for April 18th, 2007

Not sure how I feel about these photos

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

So, I’m really not sure how I feel about the photo choice for the dominant at jconline right now. I normally avoid discussing things like this here. But as I feel this is going to be an issue not just for my paper but for many papers and news outlets, I felt it was worth my 2¢.

The more I think about it, the more I think my gut reaction was the one most people will have. And that kind of concerns me. As much as I hate to admit it.

I saw the video sent to NBC tonight. I mean, literally, for about 10 minutes everyone in the newsroom stopped what they were doing, heading where they were walking, saying what they were saying. All eyes transfixed by the video of the would-be killer.

That included the photos of him pointing a gun at the camera. One of which is now staring at me, a handgun pointed at me, from the front page of my newspaper’s Web site.

My initial reaction was, “Woah, shit!” I was seriously taken aback by it. And I knew exactly what it was. Seems the other visitors have a similar reaction. The first comment reads: “Why put up such a horrible picture like that on your front page of the website? Couldn’t you of at least used a different one of him?”

I have to say I agree. Ethically speaking — and we actually had a mini-discussion on the ethics of airing that video before NBC ever said they would — I am uncomfortable with that photo. First of all, it’s disturbing to me, an adult who has a pretty high tolerance for being disturbed. But something about having someone I know has killed 32 other people pointing a gun at me really disturbs me.

Now, imagine I’m not me, hardened to a lot of news and a lot of horrible things. Imagine I’m 13, scanning the Web and maybe stopping by the newspaper site for a current events assignment for class. Or, worse, imagine I’m one of the parents, siblings, friends of one of the kids who did die at that gun point. On second thought, I really don’t want to imagine it, because I know seeing those photos would be painful.

I’m not saying don’t show the public. I would have run the video on my newscast. I would have run a photo on my Web site and in my paper. But the one of the gun pointed directly at the camera is going too far, I think.

A preliminary scan of other news sites:

The New York Times has him with the hammer & a connection to some movie posted in a blog.
CNN has the same photo as the J&C as its dominant. Interesting especially because of the prominent NBC stamp on it. They’ve also got the video posted. (Man that’s one hell of a lucky scoop for NBC.)
MSNBC has text on the spread eagle, shoot-em-up pose.
Washington Post has his smiling face from the video as its main art.
IndyStar has a close up of him taken from the video. (Clicking inside you can see they have a smaller photo of him pointing the gun at the camera, but it’s not the same, OMG! IN YOUR FACE, photo.)
Chicago Tribune has his spread eagle pose with guns off to the sides. (But they’ve got the other photos in a gallery if you click through.)
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story about the package, but it’s still under a photo of the crowd mourning.
The Beacon Journal doesn’t even mention the story except as one of the headlines in its nation/world link list.
The Columbus Dispatch leads its page with sports, but if you scroll down, there’s yet another photo of the guy pointing a gun at the camera. Again not as in your face.
The Detroit Free Press has the spread-eagle pose, but it’s not just the photo, it’s a screen capture with the MSNBC graphics on bottom?
The Roanoke Times has the memorial for those killed as dominant.