Photos must tell story
Sep 27, 2012 | 1338 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From time to time, questions arise about why we do what we do in this newspaper, particularly when covering sensitive topics.

Such an occasion arose in our coverage of the Sept. 7 car accident that took the life of Michael Robles, a 22-year-old Patterson resident (see “Highway 33 crash kills local man” Page 2, Sept. 13). It was a terrible accident that has grieved many people in this community.

While some have questioned our use of a photograph of Robles’ crashed vehicle to accompany that report, the role of a newspaper is to portray reality, even when that reality is unpleasant.

That does not mean, however, that we seek to print gratuitous images for shock value.

When considering photographs for publication in the newspaper, we want to display images that tell the story without being exploitive. The Irrigator has a policy of never photographing bodies of people killed in vehicle accidents or homicides, unless they are concealed.

In the case in question, the victim was out of the vehicle when the photo was taken. The picture was of a car that had landed on its top in a dirt area dozens of yards from the intersection of Rogers Road and Highway 33, where the California Highway Patrol said the accident began.

While living crash victims are not always removed from all accident scenes we photograph, we certainly seek to avoid imagery that is needlessly graphic, though we recognize that some people will debate what is acceptable and what is not.

We hope that Robles’ life and legacy will be remembered above and beyond the crash itself, but also that people will remember to practice safe driving habits on the West Side’s rural roads.

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