October 22, 2004

Apologize? For What?

Kenneth Chandler, editorial director of the Boston Herald, has apologized for publishing a photograph of the young woman shot to death by police during a street disturbance following the Red Sox's victory over the Yankees.

That was a mistake.

The photograph -- published on the tabloid's cover -- "angered and upset many in our community," said Chandler, referring to the outpouring of negative email the paper received, which expressed shock, revulsion and disgust (to sample from a few of the emails) at the paper's decision to print the photograph so prominently.

Bostonians should be upset, but their anger is misdirected. It was a Boston police officer who indiscriminately (apparently) fired a pepper spray pellet into a crowd of misbehaving fans, killing 22-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, an innocent bystander.

The ire of the citizenry should be aimed at the police officer who fired the gun and at a law enforcement agency that clearly was not prepared for a post-game celebration despite what news reports say was a pattern of increasing post-game drinky and rowdiness. The crowd got unruly, a cop lost control and a young woman died.

It seems heartless, I know, to say it is Herald's job, as well as that of all newspapers, to bring the community the truth in the most unvarnished version possible. When I read (in an earlier version of this story) about how Snelgrove's father met reporters outside his home with a photograph of his slain child and said, "I want you to meet my daughter," I nearly cried. What a terrible thing to have happen; what a human response by the father in front of a clamoring gaggle of reporters.

Victoria Snelgrove's death is outrageous, as are the killings of all the young men and women who die in the wanton inner city violence, as are the continuing toll of the innocents in Iraq and the unabated genocide in Darfur. Hiding from violence doesn't prevent it. Ignoring it doesn't reverse its impact. Not reporting doesn't help communities confront it.

I may be in the minority on this one -- and I don't particularly enjoy defending the Boston Herald, -- but I don't see a substantive difference between the photograph of Victoria Snelgrove lying dead on a Boston sidewalk and the one taken in 1970 by John Filo of Mary Vecchio tearfully kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller lying dead on the Kent State campus.

Would critics of the Herald's front page today have published the photo of Vecchio and Miller? Yes, the issues are different, but how does that diminish the death of one or the other?

Both are tragic. Both represent deaths of an innocent at the hands of authorities. Both are news. And both belong in the newspaper -- without an apology.

Posted by Tim Porter at October 22, 2004 01:04 PM

Very well reasoned, unbiased analysis. A gifted writer.


Posted by: PaulM on October 23, 2004 11:06 AM

I would like to thank the reporter for covering this and hope that all reports continue to show what happens when tragedy strikes. Does anyone feel concerned that police are asking reporters to turn their cameras away from their activies and not report their tragedy's.

Thankyou for your reports.

Posted by: anonomous on October 23, 2004 12:04 PM

Wow, this makes a lot of sense. Its kind of like Michael Moore showing the graphic violence in Iraq. To a degree people were angered at our own media for not showing it on the news, but had they, we probably would have been complaining. It makes it too REAL. But GOOD, we need to see the reality, it may make us less prone to make the same mistake again

Posted by: Carrie on October 23, 2004 04:04 PM

a reporter's job is to report the news, as is a newsphotographer. and no apology is needed. I am sure friends and loved ones find it in poor taste, but they should be outraged at the force

Posted by: Jobeth on October 23, 2004 05:42 PM

What if Torie had been your friend? I opened the Herald the day after she died and had to see a very graphic picture of one of my best friends and former roommates laying on the ground with blood pouring out of her face. I have a communcations / PR degree and I understand the ethical debates on both sides. They did have to show her body. They did have to show the cops standing there doing nothing while a girl took Torie's pulse. They did not have to show her face like that. They could have blurred it or used an image from another angle. Aside from all this, we all want Torie to be remembered for her smile, her energy, her life. We didn't want our last image of her to be her bloodied face on a Boston sidewalk. You can tell me to take that up with the cops or up with the punks who started the chaos... And you're right I should. But we did not have to see that image either...

Posted by: Nicole on October 23, 2004 08:25 PM

Life and death have to be documented. I hope your article puts the blame where it belongs, on the police, not the Herald.
If these unfortunate events, Kent State included, aren't reported on with words and pictures, we're misleading our readers. Most of the readers that compliained about the photo of Victoria, will see an untold number of killings on TV or at a movie and pay for the opportunity to watch it. Real life is violent, unjust and sad, as well as joyful, just and happy. All aspects of life have to be told, not just the good times. Good job Tim.

Posted by: Mike Gullett on October 25, 2004 08:30 AM

My heart goes out to Tori's family and friends, what a devastating and unnecessary loss. My heart also goes out to the police officers who are affected by this tragidy as well. Remember that many of them are parents and will have to deal with the pain of this incedent - they don't want to kill kids, that's why they try to find less destructive weapons - unfortunately, Tori was unlucky enuogh to be hit in a lethal spot. It could very easily have been more than one innocent victim in this tragedy though. It could have been a police officer lying on that sidewalk after having flaming debris and bottles thrown at mounted officers. A terrified animal could have thrown it's rider to the cement and then gone on to injure and maime by bolting through a crowd. It could have been the children of a dead police officer we are feeling for in the aftermath. It could have been 20 "innocent bi-standers" horribly burned by an exploding gas tank after the "revellers" decided to burn some cars for fun. For those few who think their acting out is nothing but innocent fun, think again. You contributed to this girl's death and the heartache that her family and everyone remotely associated with this event will now have to bear. Maybe if manslaughter and a 20 year prison sentence is added to the charges of inciting a riot, vandalism, destruction of property and mayhem - maybe then those who were truly responsible for this tragedy will realize the consequences of "their actions". I hope those who are responsible are caught and prosecuted. I feel no sorrow for those few people who created this nighmare. I don't want to hear the sob-stories of the "IDIOTS" who got hit by the pepper balls as they climbed the green monster, threw bottles and flaming debris or lit cars and trash barrels on fire - I want to hear them apologize to Tori's parents for their acts and the consequences that were the result.

Posted by: Joe Reardon on October 25, 2004 09:38 AM
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