A note from the editor on the publishing of a graphic photo

Devin Henry

On Thursday morning police discovered the body of a missing University of Minnesota student in a rail car just off campus. Minnesota Daily reporters and photographers went to the scene, located less than a mile away from the Daily offices, to report the story. Police were not present and the area had not been cordoned off. We shot images of the rail car and took notes detailing the situation, returning to the office to write the article.

Two associate editors, the managing editor and I edited and approved both the story and the photo for publication online. At that time we considered the ethical implications surrounding its publication and decided the photograph added a layer of realism that could not be expressed in words alone.

The story received strong feedback from our readers. We noticed this immediately and the editors and I looked further into the impact the photograph on those that were close to the victim. We decided the photo’s potential to cause harm outweighed the detail it provided to the story and the photo was removed from the website around 1:30 a.m.

We began with the intention of engaging our readers in a frank and honest way about a serious topic. Instead, the image became a distraction from a meaningful consideration of the serious events at hand.

This graphic image we published had too much potential to cause unnecessary grief. The Society of Professional Journalists tells us that we should “show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.” It’s wise advice to take. This sad event was an instance where restraint was a more appropriate path to take.

Devin Henry

Editor in Chief and Co-Publisher

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