Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Batman massacre front pages

The most harrowing picture to come out of the Batman massacre was that of Tom Sullivan embracing his family as he searches for his son Alex, who had celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see The Dark Knight Rises. It was taken by AP Photojournalist Barry Gutierrez. He told Wired magazine: “He was screaming at the top his lungs, ‘Have you seen my son?’ It was so gut-wrenching, it rocked me right to my bones. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through.” Tragically Alex was one of the 12 victims. The picture that captured the raw grief of the story was the most used front page picture across America. None used it better than The Bakersfield Californian.
Other newspapers chose to use different pictures of people shocked and grieving which, while powerful, don't quite have the impact of the Sullivan photograph.
The safe choice of image is killer James Holmes which many, including the UK papers that led on the story, used as the main photograph. It has to be used of course ... but is it really the main picture?

The New York Post managed to find a picture of Holmes with red hair, which he is said to have been sporting when he carried out the massacre.
Other papers, possibly not wanting to intrude on the very personal grief, chose a more symbolic image or a general shot. The spilled popcorn on the front of Puerto Rico paper El Nuevo Dia is certainly poignant, as is today's Sunday Herald.

All very strong images and pages. It is always a critical decision for editors on these occasions - which photograph to use as the main image. What I wouldn't have done though is used, as the main image, a picture of President Obama, even if he is close to tears.
I also wouldn't have fallen into the trap, which too many papers often do, of being indecisive - and using eight pictures too small. Choose the best and use it big has usually, although not always, been my preferred approach.

And I certainly wouldn't have used a publicity shot from the film as the main image, as the New Zealand Weekend Herald bizarrely decided to do.
There isn't a right and wrong of course. Telling stories visually is all about the judgment of the editors and designers. That is what gives newspapers their diversity and character. I believe some of these pages are stronger than others. I would have used the Sullivan picture because it encapsulates the human consequences of this terrible story. But that is just an opinion. What is important is that newspapers take a different approach, that they are shaped by the editorial values of the journalists. When all our papers look the same, templated to the point of blandness, will be the day I pack it all in to run a beach bar on the Med.  

Thanks to: The Poynter Institute, Newseum, Hendopolis and Front Pages Today

1 comment:

  1. I think the headline diversity is also worthy of comment Peter. Just personally i am not a fan of the one-word banner headline, but riffing on the title of the film as "Dark Night" also smacks of callousness. Perhaps the Brainerd Dispatch was a suitable compromise. Thoughts?