San Diego readers didn’t want to see pictures of the two San Bernardino shooters, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, San Diego Union-Tribune readers representative Adrian Vore reported.
Readers complained saying the pictures and repeated name identification glorified the shooters, he said. “Pictures of the attackers indeed ran three days in row,” Vore noted for a total of four days of photos of the pair.
The paper’s director of photography and video John McCutchen told Vore the paper needed to run the photos because it’s newsworthy and denied that it gave the shooters too much attention.
“At this point in the life of the story, it is imperative that we put a face with the name,” McCutchen told Vore. “The act is what glorifies their cause.” McCutchen acknowledged that the public might be “overwhelmed” by the pair’s photos though given the few photo options of Farook and Malik.
“Since there are only a couple of different images of each of them, I have no doubt given the size of the story and number of news organizations using the images that folks could feel overwhelmed,” McCutchen told Vore.
Vore agreed that it’s important to provide “the basic ‘who’ of journalism” and explain Farook and Malik’s backgrounds. “I would oppose any effort at blanket rule to withhold terrorists’ pictures,” Vore commented. “Public information demands the photos. However, I feel that at some point the use of specific pictures can be reduced because they have become so familiar.”
Vore became the paper’s readers representative last year, as iMediaEthics previously reported.
In October, after the shootings in Roseburg, Oregon, local police said they wouldn’t call the suspected shooter by name in the media. News outlets defended the naming of accused shooters as vital to fully reporting the story, as iMediaEthics reported at the time.
iMediaEthics has written to Vore to ask how many complaints the paper received.