It happens every time we do a story on animal abuse. The comments come in, “Why did you have to show such graphic pictures?”
As the Editor, I am the one that makes the decision, the buck stops here and sometimes, literally, the picture of a buck appears in some stories, and, all too often, the picture is gruesome.
“You do it to shock!” “You upset my children.” “You do it only to sell papers.” Yeah, I’ve heard it all. Well honestly, I probably do it for all those reasons. I do want readers to be shocked. Your kids should be exposed to what really happens in the world they will inherit. Selling newspapers is a driving force for what is put on the front page and throughout the paper. Yes, Law & Order is a big seller. Yes, I often use words some find offensive. Guess what, the pictures, the words, are reality.
I do draw the line at showing bodies at crash or crime scenes. I do not knock on the doors of parents and family, who just lost a loved one, asking them how they feel. Most of the TV people have no such restrictions and I find that much more objectionable, to showing a mistreated horse.
I actually had some girl make a snide comment to me. “Why do you print arrests. That is nobody else’s business.” I believe you have the right to know if a neighbor is drunk and driving, sexually abuses children, beats their loved ones, or is arrested for starving animals. I know most of my competition would rather stick with the safe stuff and not offend anyone, but that simply is not the reason for the Times’ existence.
When I started this paper over a quarter century ago, I decided to tell and show the truth, not only the worst in humanity, but the best as well. It is rare to find long feature stories in local papers, beyond the mundane.
Last year we decided to add AP (Associated Press) stories to the mix as well as more regional and state news. There are some terrific, longer than normal, stories about science and our world that should not be missed.
I am a realist, however, I know that in this time-precious world, people do not take the time to more than peruse headlines and pick out familiar names. They prefer their news intake in 30 second bites on television, or over the internet. They prefer the sanitized, miniaturized version. Some prefer the shock, but within restraints.
Do our readers appreciate the format and stories in the Times? I guess so. We are still selling lots of papers, even on weeks where the front may be less than dramatic. We rarely hear any kind comments and almost never any positive ‘atta boys’, but we keep on doing the best we can.
As for the graphic pictures and words, things will not change. Sometimes in life, we must be slapped with reality, must face humanity and mortality, along with the majority of positive stuff on these pages.