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Reader interaction is an important part of what we do in the L-E newsroom. I blog here frequently about issues involving the Ledger-Enquirer, ledger-enquirer.com and related sites and publications. My goal is to have an informal yet respectful conversation. Check this page frequently for updates – and don’t be shy about joining the conversation. – Joseph Kieta, Executive Editor

Bin Laden photos: to publish or not? Let us know what you think

05/04/11 08:20
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

The White House is debating whether to release photos taken during the bin Laden compound raid. If the photos are released (which I think they will be at some point soon as pressure builds for their dissemination), the debate on whether or not to publish body photos will rest with news organizations throughout the world.

I think it's a pretty easy call: we publish the photos, however graphic they are. While we normally shy away from "body shots" both online and in print, I can't think of a time when publication of a graphic photo would be more newsworthy based on a multitude of factors including reader interest and the truth-telling power of photography.

The question then becomes how we display the photos online and in print. Some editors feel that a bin Laden body photo should require a second "click" online so that the user wouldn't be forced to view the gruesome picture on our home page. I'm not sure I agree with this approach; the photos will be available all over the web and trying to hide them won't do much good and may make us irrelevant. But I certainly understand the thought process behind allowing online readers to proceed at their own discretion.

The most visceral reactions to photos typically come after publication in the print newspaper. The consensus developing in the print journalism community is to display any bin Laden photo on an inside page in black and white. Again, I'm not sure I agree with this call.

Chattahoochee Valley readers previously have demonstrated a high tolerance for graphic photos. Similar "body shots" of Saddam Hussein and his sons elicited no negative reaction from readers when they were printed in the Ledger-Enquirer.

What do you think? Let's discuss this in the comments below. I'm open to changing my mind based on your reaction.

-- Joe Kieta, Executive Editor

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