Nine years later - The Explorer: Editorials

Nine years later

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Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

No Sept. 11, which arrives this Saturday, should pass without noting the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Talk about powerful images. The scenes of that horrible day are etched forever onto the memories of every American conscious at that time.

Historic benchmarks provide a measure of the passing of time. Could it really be nine years since Islamic extremists flew commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania?

America is a changed place since Sept. 11. Air travel shall never be what it was. We remain "engaged," if not at war, in Afghanistan, and only now is Iraq approaching normalcy. American servicemen and women are in those countries, right now, working on our behalf, and we are every day thankful for them. We must note, and remember, the sacrifices of New York City policemen and women, and firefighters, who went into those buildings while everyone else was fleeing. No work on American soil is more dangerous than theirs.

Nine years later, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to create an Islamic center, with mosque, prayer room, gymnasium, pool and public spaces, in a building two blocks from Ground Zero. It is hugely controversial, testing to the core the American values of freedom and tolerance. We strive to be free. We strive to be tolerant. Yet, after Sept. 11, we are afraid, too.

No easy answers. But, every year, a reflection on Sept. 11, the attacks that changed this country, and upon those lives lost on our own soil.

On to much different subject matter, a picture of a rattlesnake devouring a rabbit, and whether The Explorer should have published it.

Reader Dennis McCarty had submitted the image, taken on a Northwest golf course fairway. He was one of several who saw the scene, clicked it and sent it along.

For several weeks now, we've debated about whether to run the photograph as one of our weekly reader-submitted images. In the end, we published it. And people saw it. They've phoned or e-mailed their reactions, most of them negative.

"I am disgusted by the photo," one reader said. "This is horrible … I think you have shown very poor taste in printing this."

"It is horrifying to me … much less any children that have seen will / see that awful picture," wrote another. "Shame on you. Please use better judgment in the future."

"I think it is in poor taste," a third wrote. "I had just eaten my dinner and almost gagged." That person believes such imagery is "best reserved for the Discovery Channel, or a photographic venue such as National Geographic."

Not all the comments were negative. "Thank you for including the fabulous snake-eating-rabbit picture," another said. "Heavens, we live in a desert, it's a beautiful picture of how nature works. Nothing goes to waste, and watch where you walk. I love it."

In the newspaper business, reporters, editors and photographers regularly face decisions about what to publish, and what not to publish. There is, always, a sensitivity to the reader, and due consideration to the reactions that may result. There is, further, a judgment about news value, and whether images should be published because they should be seen. Those are typically "hard" news decisions, about crashes and fires and pictures certain to elicit emotional response. Sept. 11, for strong example.

Recently, The Arizona Daily Star published an excellent package of photography and reporting regarding the work of the Pima County Examiner's Office, and its attempt to identify people who die crossing the border. Images of dead people were published. Should they have been? Absolutely. The public needs to know about that story, and there's no reason to shield readers from discomforting images.

It's OK to shock readers, and consumers of media, with powerful, story-telling images. A picture of a rattlesnake eating a rabbit is not of such importance. We'll be more cautious moving forward.

That said, a veteran newspaper reporter once said he'd "rather be kicked than ignored," so in that vein we are grateful for the reactions.

— DPP

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