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Publishing the Nearly Dead

This is the front page of Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, today, Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 (I may be the only person in my demographic who gets a daily subscription). There was a crash in Brighton, NY yesterday involving a car full of four High Schoolers who wedged their vehicle underneath a school bus (you may enlarge to see just how horrific that image is). The article is not sensationalist, but the headline aligns with the thoughts of Karin E. Becker, author of Photojournalism and the Tabloid Press. Almost miraculously, none of the High School Students or the younger children in the school bus were injured, though two are in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Calling the crash a nightmare and seeing that image, I immediately thought this would rank many huge tragedies we have suffered involving young drivers. Even though the students are far from wholly unscathed, they survived, a positive aftermath, but the headline focuses on the critical negative event.

This also plays into an interview with Barbie Zelizer, author of About to Die: How News Images Move the Public. We are attracted to images of death, in this case, a narrowly escaped death.

Bryan

Comments

Larissa
Reply

Bryan this is a great demonstration of the readings for this week. I’m definitely glad that they showed this image, rather than one of the students getting wheeled into an ambulance or something along those lines. This image is enough to demonstrate the nightmare aspect of this crash.

Bryan
Reply

That is true, I don’t accuse the image or the article of sensationalism, just the headline. Check out this other angle from my blog that shows how mangled this car got – but again, I tend to think about how incredible it is that there were no casualties: http://whatbryanthinksabout.tumblr.com/image/33313673723

Kurt
Reply

This is a great example of the week’s topic. I think these images are so powerful because we tend to identify ourselves with the victims. My first impression was how surreal it would have been to know I was in that car and had survived.

Lauren
Reply

I agree with you, Bryan, how incredible it is that there were no casualties, and the image serves as a reminder of how lucky these kids were. If I hadn’t read the story or you hadn’t told us that no one was killed, I would have assumed someone had to have been. That accident looks deadly. I like how you tied this image into both of those readings from this week. We are reeled in by the “death” image and moved even further by the headline.

Nikolas
Reply

Honestly, this image had little to no impact on me when I saw it in the paper. Why should it? It shows an accident and a few people milling around the scene. There’s a reason that the most effective, lasting images of tragedy almost always show the actual victims involved; I’ve seen car wrecks before, but I’ve never seen a self-immolation. Yes, it’s always unfortunate when someone is in a car crash, but it’s rarely interesting.

I would suspect that “shocking” images of all types are increasingly impotent in the eyes of younger generations. It’s 2012 and everyone has high speed Internet connections; how horrible a spectacle you can behold is limited only by the strength of your stomach. Zelizer says that people are squeamish today; I’d imagine she’s never studied 4chan.

Bryan
Reply

I see what you are saying Nikolas, if there were bodies sprawled around or something like that, it would certainly be a mroe shocking image, though I do not believe that is what the D&C was going for. If the students were drunk or texting or something they may have shown something more graphic attached to a PSA-type article, but the paper tends to try to be non-biased anyway. I was certainly still shocked, though, which may actually more evident of the biases, personal context, and involvement of the audience that forms different reactions. I have had many friends at Brighton High School, and I have taught kids who go there now and it certainly has had a strong impact on the local level.

Jessica
Reply

I think this is a great photo that goes along with the reading also. Like I said in my post I think pictures like this should be seen in newspapers and on the news because of the way that they make us think and feel. When I clicked on your photo, and the image got larger and I could actually see what it was a picture of, I was nervous for whoever was in that car, then I read it and saw that no one had actually died, and I felt relief for those four students.

Ivonna
Reply

It’s really terrible that the headline only focuses on the bad think instead of the fact that they had survived. Also, if you take a look at the end of the article, it says “See CRASH, Page 4A”.. Crash in capital letters.

It’s concerning the fact that many people will be more interested in watching the crash than actually reading the story.

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