of dead bodies dont belong on cover
Jennings is a junior economics major from Melbourne,
isnt a column about the attacks in Fallujah, Iraq.
I dont have the skills to give a respectful and
adequate take on what happened last Wednesday. However,
I am fully capable of expressing my disgust at the print
media for how they handled the coverage.
On the Thursday after the attacks I picked up a copy of
the New York Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and USA
Today before leaving to get my car repaired. I had heard
about what happened but hadnt read a full report
of the incident yet.
And I hadnt seen the photos.
The New York Times ran a large, full-color picture of
Iraqis celebrating in front of two corpses hanging from
a bridge. Inside, there were more large color photos of
a burning SUV and a mob beating a charred corpse with
their shoes. The blackened foot at the bottom of the page
is the only hint that it really is a corpse.
USA Today ran the mob photo in color on the front page,
but the foot is cropped out. Inside they have the bridge
photo in black and white.
The Star-Telegram had a large picture above the fold of
Iraqis surrounding a burning SUV. Below the fold was the
bridge photo, with warnings of graphic content accompanying
the story and an explanation for the obscene photo. Inside
was a photo of the base where the men worked.
The Associated Press did a story on the media coverage
and mentioned the New York Sun. I got my trial subscription
and downloaded their front page. The huge dominant photo
at the top of the page was a pair of hands reaching out
from a sea of fire. Below it, and almost as large, was
the now ubiquitous bridge photo. Part of the caption,
The top photo shows the hands of one flame-engulfed
victim. You have to love that sort of casual detachment.
Why put those graphic photos in the paper? Some newspapers
didnt show bodies at all. An even larger amount,
including the LA Times, didnt make charred corpses
the first thing you see in the morning paper. So it is
possible for credible news organizations to report on
this without turning readers stomachs. Yes, you
have to blur out a partially exposed nipple, but you can
leave burnt bodies unblurred on the front page.
There is a responsibility to convey the gravity of the
situation to your readers, I'll agree with that. I also
know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand
words. But showing a man burn to death on the front
page of your newspaper has crossed into the realm of sensationalism.
Its making the press a postscript to a snuff film.
Children walk by newsstands with these photos brazenly
shown. As a kid, I would get the morning paper for my
dad from the driveway. I dont mean to sound like
theres a stick up my ass, but 10-year-olds shouldnt
have to be exposed to things like this. What do you tell
Newspapers should never feel obliged to protect
their readers from the truth, but the truth isnt
at stake. The people got the who, what, when, where, why
and how from every newspaper mentioned previously. Newspapers,
however, should feel obliged to give an honest, objective
analysis of world events without the use of sensationalized
Cable news has lead to a decline in newspaper readership,
but this isnt the way to win people back. Exercise
some self-restraint, retain your integrity and dont
become print versions of Fox specials.