Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 19, 2015

Front Pages That DIDN'T Turn the Charleston Shooter into a Poster Boy

In the aftermath of the latest shooting rampage, this one the racist massacre in Charleston, my sense is that the popular sentiment against publishing the shooter’s face and name (at least, on the web) had grown louder than ever. That, however, didn’t stop certain publications from splashing his face across multiple columns, even whole pages, like the second coming of Hannibal Lecter. And this, like a domino effect, generated that many more links, posts and tweets calling out and re-posting those examples, only amplifying the kid’s status as poster boy.

Another thread in the online reaction, also not a new one, has to do with how much the media prioritizes what’s destructive over how much is well. That being the case, we could stand for more recognition of those papers that largely ignored the perpetrator in favor of elevating the victims and affirming existing bonds.

Ignoring the shooter, The Birmingham News — recalling its own massacre and depicting blacks and whites praying together — turned its cover into a love note:

In contrast to a notorious competitor in the city, Newsday solemnly depicted these nine fallen parishioners and pastors:

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette did give the shooter some visibility, but not in the same proportion as this photo of a black and a white youth embracing, prioritizing the humanity of some many other kids.

The Missourian marked the solemnity of the event, and the ritual of commemoration, by marking its cover with a single image.

Finally, the Quad City Times, in crafting this headline, seemed to advocate for the identification of the hate crime as an act of terrorism:

With the news and the entertainment industry obsessed with “the dark side,” these examples demonstrate, with the application of craft, that we’re better than that.

(front page images: Newseum)

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