By Steve Outing
On the front page of my local paper (Boulder Daily Camera) this morning was something I’ve never seen before. This note, with a red headline:
Don’t unfold the page, yet
An apparent assassination attempt on our governor left one man dead in the hallway of one of the most public places in our state Monday.
We worked hard to find a picture that captured the scene but was not too sensational. I believe this photo accomplishes that, but I want you to be forewarned in case you’d rather just turn the page.
Kevin Kaufman, Editor
The photo is of the assailant (a crazed man wearing a rented tuxedo) lying dead on the floor, with a police officer looking on. The top part of the photo is visible “above the fold,” but the man’s body is not until you open the page fully. I don’t find the photo particularly disturbing, though some people might. (We see much more graphic images every night on network news, from Iraq.)
Kaufman’s way of handling this spurs a few thoughts:
1. If the image is so disturbing, why not put it on an inside page, with a “don’t turn the page” warning? I doubt if even the most squeamish reader averted his/her eyes from the full view of the front page. It would be hard NOT to see.
2. Pre-Internet, perhaps this image wouldn’t have made page 1, or even in the newspaper itself — because it’s too “gruesome” (again, I don’t think it is). But important images like this do end up online and easy to find. So it strikes me as pointless to hide such photos from newspaper readers.
3. Perhaps Kaufman’s odd warning will spare him some predictable letters to the editor. (“How could you post that photo of a dead man lying on the Capitol floor?! Cancel my subscription to your sensationalist rag!”) It’ll be interesting to watch the letters page. My guess is that no one will complain.
Here’s the photo; decide for yourself…