Can we handle the unpixelated truth?
Every morning I start my working day scanning the Getty Images, AP and AFP wires, searching hundreds of images from around the world for striking visual stories to share with Australia. Every morning I am reduced to tears by the latest photos from Syria’s bloody civil war.
Most days, these show blood, guts and severely traumatised children amid the most appalling scenes of death and destruction. No one wants corpses with their Corn Flakes, so we do not publish these images.
As a rule, Australian newspapers do not publish photographs of dead bodies.
Such images are guaranteed to upset and we run the danger of turning readers away from our coverage.
On a typical day, I am much more likely to write about amazing art, beautiful nature or humans doing wonderful things than horrible subjects such as death, destruction and disaster.
Yet death, destruction and disaster are daily occurrences around the world, and Syria is seeing all three on a daily basis.
More than 25,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the 19-month conflict, and 300,000 refugees have fled to nearby countries.
There’s a horrific war going on. And you’re not seeing the worst of it. If you were, would you care more?
Last week, one of the most popular posts on the user generated social network Reddit discussed a particularly tragic photograph from Syria showing a father cradling his dead son in Aleppo after suicide bombers in a government-controlled area of the city killed at least 34 people.
More than 2000 comments discussed the powerful picture, which as well as capturing one man’s agony, also opened up a fiery debate about a war where even the supposed “good guys” are capable of horribly murderous acts.
Now I’m a cheerful, happy guy by nature and thus gravitate, like most readers, to cheerful, happy pictures wherever possible.
But like most journalists, part of my motivation for entering the profession was a desire to somehow “make a difference”.
I see horrible photographs from Syria every day. Google “war in Syria” and you can see some pretty gruesome stuff too.
Should the media be sanitising this war? And if we shared Syria’s true horrors, would it make any difference?
Simon Crerar is News Limited’s Visual Story Editor. Follow him at twitter.com/simoncrerar
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