SPC: coverage necessary
The members of the Student Publication Committee Wednesday addressed the The Daily Cougar’s decision to run a photograph of the Feb. 8 Metro bus stop crime scene, in which a shooting victim’s body was visible.
The picture ran in the newspaper’s Feb. 09 issue 88, volume 74.
‘ ‘We felt it was a shock that represented the reality of what happened, not much different from what students watch on television,’ Zaneta Loh, The Daily Cougar’s editor in chief said. ‘Our goal was not’ (to) sensationalize it.’
The Daily Cougar received letters and e-mails regarding to the photograph, Loh said, some in approval of the decision to run the story and many on students’ disapproval of the picture being printed in the University’s newspaper.
Loh said the newspaper’s editors made a joint decision to run the picture and that this was done to present the ‘most complete reflection of what happened.’
‘We made the decision not to edit out what we felt was important there,’ Loh said. ‘We did take into account that we wanted to respect the person. If there was a close up of the man’s face, we would not have run it.’
Seven of ten committee members present expressed their support of the The Daily Cougar’s decision to run the picture.
They said the job of a newspaper is to report the story.’ Had the picture been sensationalized, committee members said, or if it were a close-up of Joe Tall’s face, they would have disapproved of the decision.
‘I understand that people are upset on campus, but it is not much different than what they watch on television or what they read,’ associate communication professor Michael Berryhill said. ‘If it shocks them, I don’t know what they are reading.’
Berryhill said when he saw the paper, it never occurred to him that the picture shouldn’t have been printed.
Committee member and political science senior Laura Bobrick asked Loh for an explanation as to how and why the picture was published and if another picture could have been used.
‘This was a crime scene,’ Loh said to Bobrick’s question. ‘We could not get another angle. This was the only picture we had.’
Committee member and communication senior Kayley Sanders asked how other universities publications have handled similar situations.
Richard Cigler, director of Student Publications Department, referred to the University of Texas’ coverage of a sniper on their campus in 1966.
Berryhill cited John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph a girl crying over the dead body of a student shot by the National Guard in Ohio after the Kent State University shooting on’ May 4, 1970.’ ‘ ‘
The Daily Cougar’s Web page showing the photograph has received 2,500 hits, whereas an online story normally receives around 200.
The story has received more hits than any story last semester or this semester so far, said Matt Dulin, director of production for UH’s news website.
‘This is an important story on campus,’ Cigler said. ‘We would have been negligent not to cover it.’
Although members of the committee agreed that the picture does come with a shock factor, they said The Daily Cougar’s decision to run the photograph was the correct one.
‘That was reality,’ Loh said. ‘It is not our job to do anything but report what happened.’