Newspaper: Sorry For Running That News Photo!


More from the Dept. of Offensive Content: Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton is apologizing for running a front-page photo yesterday of a man falling from a seven-story building to his death. Money quote:

Offending readers isn't the issue; it's offending them without sufficient justification.

Link via Romenesko.

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  1. I’m saying the point of the photo should be to tell the news. If you have a picture of a man falling in front of a burning building your photo has done so. Additionally, the photo evokes more human emotion, as we can see from this example. So, while the reader can “understand” reading text, the photo is a stronger means of communication.

    Do people understand the power of a nuclear weapon without seeing a photo of a blast? Do people feel the same sick feeling when they read about one of the shuttle disasters, or does it mean more when they see a photo? Do you understand the horrors of war without photographs? 9/11?

    By Doug Clifton saying:

    Offending readers isn’t the issue; it’s offending them without sufficient justification. The photo of the man leaping to his death from the burning World Trade Center tower illustrates my point. The photo was plainly offensive, yet it drove home the tragedy of the event like no other. I had no qualms about running it, though it generated some negative reaction from readers.

    Yesterday’s photo was different. Its intrinsic news value was minimal. Its broader significance was nil. Its single justification for publication was that our alert photographer was present and did what she was trained to do in the face of unfolding news.

    he is saying that the people don’t give as much of a shit about this guy dying as the guy leaping from the WTC. I think that’s bs, death is death. Sure the tragedy of 9/11 was greater – because it affected a larger number of people, but when you publish a photo of a single person going to their death in one instance and not another you are being a hypocrite.

    I would imagine the tragedy captured in each of the photographs would be considered equal to each of those men and their families. what, readers care more in one instance than the other? they should be the ones apologizing.

  2. How about a link to the photo so that we can decide if in fact the photo is offensive . . .

  3. Why does it matter if the photo is offensive? Isn’t that a personal judgement? Or have we formed our own Court of Monkeys to determine community standards?

    Death may be personal, as is my reaction to evidence of it. I am not wise enough to decide how each other person might react.

  4. joe, I don’t understand your reply at 12:25.

    If one, as the photogrpaher or the newspaper editor, were to think of other things besides one’s own interests, what does that mean exactly? Should I care about what the person falling to his death would think of the picture of it being in the paper? (He’s dead, I don’t think he gives a shit anymore.) Or should I be concerned about my dependents who need me to take and publish interesting photographs in order to put food on the table? What about one’s co-workers who’s lives depend on selling newspapers? Would you consider that to be thinking only about one’s interests or thinking beyond one’s own interests? What about the readers who don’t want me to leave out important details?

    The whole point being that the statement “Think outside the box called ‘your interests.'” is meaningless.

    In fact, Matt Welch’s post seems to point out yet another case of a newspaper’s ombudsman having to explain everything that someone might find offensive. One man’s offensive is another man’s poignant. People call up and gripe, but is it the newspaper’s job to be concerned about knee-jerk reactions?

    The real money quote in the article to me was “In the end, we saw it as journalists tend to see things, not as mothers or fathers do.”

    Um, I think people buy the paper for the journalism, but these asshole ombudsmen (I know, his title is editor) appear to think their jobs are to act like the customers’ parents. Does “think outside one’s own interests” mean simply “think like a parent”, or is there a still larger box to think in?

  5. Matt,

    Did your neo-con handlers tell you make that write-up? 🙂

  6. Do we really need to see the moment of somebody’s death? That’s very intimate event. It’s disrespectful to publish it for all the world to see.

  7. “offending them without sufficient justification”. That’s so not punk rock.

  8. Wasn’t the TV plastered with the same thing on 9-11-2001?

    Why are people offended by death anyway? Does it remind them of their own mortality, their own impermanence?

  9. there’s nothing private about dying publically.

    that said, i don’t know if i would have run the photo. maybe, if there were sufficient reason – i.e. he fell because of safety violations or something like that. otherwise you can find a way to show scene photos that will be nearly as gripping.

  10. Joe is right. The real world is too ugly, please sanitize my news. Neo-con, the new buzz word of the fringe left.

  11. Funny, I didn’t say anything about the picture being ugly.

  12. It seems to me that there should be room in the marketplace of ideas for both newspapers that report important news while adhering to some standard of decorum that appeals to the sensitivities of their readership, and for screaming tabloids full of lurid, exploitive photos that people want to see out of sheer prurient interest.

    In fact, there’s the web.

  13. Umbriel — I think you’re on to something, and I think that scores of cities will have new tabloid dailies very soon that’ll be glad to run jumper photos (and local crime news), while the austere former monopolies focus on “big picture” stories. At least I hope so.

  14. THey could always go to a nursing home and take pictures of all of the people there.

  15. …and yes, I am trying to suggest that photographing death may be accurate, but the message is what carries semantic ‘value’. Not just to you, but to those being photographed. Think outside the box called “your interests.”

  16. Back in the 1980s, one of the Houston dailies ran a wire service photo on Page 1 of a nude Colombian teenage girl who had been pulled alive from a mud slide after an earthquake. Nary an eye was batted, and the paper was not deluged with protest letters.

    But when our little suburban daily ran a photo of local high school drill team girls doing their high kicks, we were all but picketed for publishing obscenity and exposing the crotches of “our girls” to prurient interest (no comment on the fact that they were doing this in a stadium filled with 5,000 people; what WAS dad looking at with his binoculars during the half-time show?).

    Had this picture been of a man taking one last high dive in Zimbabwe or Minsk, I doubt there would have been an apology. These type of controversies usually boil down to the readership’s relation to the subject.

  17. Hard to judge whether the decision to run it was right or wrong, or whether the decision to apologize for running it was right or wrong, without seeing the picture. Have the gatekeepers blocked it off or is it posted somewhere online? I’m a long way from Cleveland and can’t get the paper….

  18. If I (ok, when I…) make statements to the effect of “caring about other people is a leftist phenomenon,” I get roundly denounced. But when conservatives say the same thing (anon 12:14) you all just let it pass. Why is that?

  19. The death is the news, not the loss of a building. People want to only see the building because that makes them feel better as they read the paper drinking their coffee. I mean, we wouldn’t want to depress anyone in the news, would we?

    Give us the news and don’t puss out and make some lame apology.

  20. Are you saying the reader can’t understand what “a man fell to his death” means, without seeing the poor soul’d nasty end in a photo?

  21. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 10:17:24
    A person never tells you anything until contradicted.

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