Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Volcanic Reaction

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Volcanic Reaction

Article excerpt

GEORGE WEDDING, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, MAY 18

It was, as the editorial note described it, a "tough news decision then and now." Back in May 1980, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News photographer George Wedding was called away from a fishing vacation on Puget Sound to cover the volcanic explosion of Mount St. Helens, 150 miles away. He returned with a portfolio of photos later cited in his selection as a Pulitzer finalist and Newspaper Photographer of the Year.

His most gripping image indelibly captured from overhead one of the disaster's 57 human dead: 11-year-old Andy Karr, covered in gray ash, lying in the back of a pickup truck, with fallen tree trunks to the side. The Mercury News chose to publish it on its front page -- and received a torrent of praise, and condemnation.

Exactly 20 years later, on the anniversary of the May eruption, they did it again. The Wedding picture ran the same size as the first time, along with an article by the photographer about his recent return to the eerie mountain. This time, the editors, anticipating a divided reaction, defended their decision to re-publish in a box under the photo, asserting that it "vividly captured the fury of this historic event. …

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