Two whiny editorials in the Chicago Tribune infuriated me this weekend. Both were simpering accounts of how hard it is to be a journalist at a big newspaper. The first, by Jonathan Elderfield, a photo editor contained the following:
Something we don't see every day (but should)
"I am a picture editor at the Chicago Tribune. My job for the last year and a half has been to look at every hard news photograph from across the world and nation that comes into the Tribune's photo system. I have become intimately acquainted with death in Iraq, mostly with the death of the Iraqi people. While there are more than 2,000 dead servicemen and women, there are many times more dead Iraqis.
Every weekday I have seen images of Iraqi dead or of grieving family members. I have seen exploded cars, pools of blood, terrified children, dismembered bodies, bodies in mass graves. My job is to sort through these images of the dead, dying and grieving and to decide what is a good picture, what is acceptable to publish in the newspaper--or what is too gruesome...
It went on to say: "I cannot remember a workday in the last six months when I did not see the aftermath of a shooting or a car bomb. I don't have nightmares or post-traumatic stress disorder but I have images burned in my mind's eye of war atrocities:
There is the photograph of a family whose car was fired upon at night by soldiers in Tal Afar. It shows a frightened little girl, her face spattered in the blood of her dead parents, her screaming mouth wide open, and the legs and gun barrel of a soldier protruding into the corner of the frame.
There is the photograph of the mourning family of 9-year-old Ahmed, killed by a car bomb in Baghdad. The five adult faces I see are all screaming and wailing; their hands are raised to those faces in horror or prayer. The family huddles around the small wood box.
There is the photograph from Haditha that shows about 10 dead Iraqis packed in ice in a morgue--a scene that resembles a fish market. They had been executed in a stadium northwest of Baghdad. The Iraqi government had, in fact, identified them as fishermen."
Now let's be clear, Johnathan Elderfield is an accomplished photographer and seems to have his heart in the right place. Moreover there's no question that such images are incendiary. But leaving aside the whining tone of the piece, there is a much bigger and more infuriating question: Why are you, Jonathan Elderfield, the only one to have seen these pictures? Why is it that every time I open the paper I see antiseptic crap rather than the hard hitting news photos it turns out you've been sitting on all these months? The photos that accompanied the news piece were indeed graphic--far more graphic than anything I've ever seen in the tribune or elsewhere. They have the power to bring the horror of war home, and yet all they do is eat at you rather than the conscience of the nation. They ruin your lunch rather than affect public opinion. This seems to be a total abdication of your responsibility as a journalist and an editor, and rather than feel sorry for your pain, all I can muster is fury at your complicity in a whitewash that continues to cost innocent lives on a daily basis.
Do we want to look at this? No. Should we....?