Editors' Comments

Newspaper Research Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Editors' Comments


Like journalism teachers all over the country, we've spent a fair amount of classroom time discussing events of Sept. 11. Early on, that discussion turned from the horrendous events to questions about how the media covered them.

The challenge for the journalism research community now --and that includes professionals as well as academics--is to apply your expertise to these questions and attempt to answer them through carefully planned and executed studies.

We can't think of a better way to encourage this effort than to offer a special issue of Newspaper Research Journal on coverage of Sept. 11 and its aftermath as well as related issues, including the public's reaction to the coverage. So, if you have a study underway or are planning one, let us know. If you don't, think about doing one. We'll plan to run this special issue if there is enough interest. We hope there is.

We will plan the special issue for winter 2003 with a Sept. 1, 2002, submission deadline.

We feel a special obligation to look for answers to questions not only about what was covered but also about how and why. That means we're also interested in receiving submissions on ethical issues pertaining to coverage. Those are the questions being asked by the public and by students in our classes.

Students in one particular class the day after the attacks expressed outrage when they saw a quarter-page photo that ran inside their local daily newspaper, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. The photo was of a man plummeting to his death from one of the World Trade Center towers. They asked how and why the editors chose to run "such a picture."

Even students who planned to become editors, reporters and photographers, themselves, sat quietly by during a student SPJ meeting at our school while another student berated the editorial decision to run "such a picture."

What none of the students had seen or read was the editor's own explanation the day after of why he ran "such a picture."

He began quite simply with a question: "How could we not?"

With the editor's permission, we're reprinting his commentary.

Editor's letter

MORE THAN 50 readers contacted us Wednesday, protesting publication of a picture on Page A3. The photo showed a man plunging from the World Trade Center. He was one of many who either jumped or fell to their deaths after terrorists crashed airliners into the buildings.

The readers' message was: "How could you publish such a picture?" Our answer as reporters and editors must be: "How could we not?"

We tell the news each day with words and pictures. We are challenged to provide readers the whole sense of each story. Pictures carry great emotional impact; understanding that, we choose them judiciously. But pictures are needed. They communicate in ways that words cannot. …

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