2004 Tsunami Photographs

Hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs showing the devastation of the 2004 tsunami in South Asia inundated the media following the disaster. On Dec. 28, 2004, both the New York Times and the Washington Post emphasized the loss of children with their front page photographs.

The New York Times took up almost the entire front page above the fold with this photograph, to which many people took offense. The Washington Post led with this photograph, also placed above the fold on the front page. I think the Washington Post made the better decision in this case because its picture conveyed more emotion while still maintaining poignancy and taste. Instead of relying on the shock value that comes with the dead bodies of children in the Times' photo, the Posts's photo appropriately conveys the deep sense of loss and devastation without possibly offending individuals the minute they see the front page.

When I found these pictures online, they didn't come with any warnings, especially not the New York Times' photograph. The Washington Post has a slide show under the Photos from the Disaster tab of images from the disaster. The slide show does come with a warning to viewers of violent or graphic content. When scrolling through the photos, I didn't find anything offensive; although dead bodies were shown, they were covered or wrapped in tarp. I personally don't think the warning is necessary, but it is always better to be cautious than to misjudge a readers' reaction. As an editor I would always want to err on the side of caution, so I would keep the warning label on this slide show.

I think it is important to convey to readers the true gravity of any situation, which is why I would keep the pictures in this slide show online, even though they contain dead bodies. However, I believe in maintaining taste and decency, which is why I would not publish the the New York Times' photo in print or online.


No comments: