Readers tell The Globe to remember that this is a turning point for society’s understanding of sexual harassment and abuse of women.
Last week, I asked readers whether there was too much or too little coverage of Jian Ghomeshi. And what about the photos of him, which one reader begged The Globe and Mail to stop publishing because she and her friends found it “revolting.”
More than two dozen of you wrote in from across the country, one from the United States and one from overseas. The message was pretty clear: Keep covering the news on Mr. Ghomeshi, remember that this is a turning point for society’s understanding of sexual harassment and abuse of women and please, please don’t run those photos any more.
Let’s explore the photo issue first. I noted that since all online stories need photos, it would be hard to avoid pictures of Mr. Ghomeshi. I was correctly upbraided by a few readers on that, many of whom described the photos as smarmy or sneering publicity shots.
“It is easy to avoid,” one reader said. “Simply don’t allow your news judgment to be overridden by your design policy. You write, ‘Every article online includes a photo,’ as if this were one of the Ten Commandments. It isn’t; it’s just your standard practice. If you can’t occasionally make an exception to your standard practice in cases where that practice does more harm than good, then you are being unreasonably inflexible and practising second-rate journalism, a journalism that does its work by formula.
“The journalistic harm that you are doing is (1) visually presenting stale news because it’s all you’ve got, and (2) annoying the many readers who are sick of seeing Jian’s smiling face, given what has happened. Remember, too, that your publication is only one of many, and hundreds of these pictures (most of them duplicates) are in our face 24/7. This further diminishes whatever value you may see in them.
“If you don’t have newsworthy photos, don’t publish any at all. You will, I promise, not get any letters from readers complaining that there was no picture of Jian over the latest story about him.”
One small note here: It is not a journalistic reason, but a technical one that all online stories are set up to include a photo. That said, Globe Photo Editor Moe Doiron called the Ghomeshi photo issue “a perfect storm for us in some ways, a relentless story with a steady flow of updates and changes, a central subject who was in hiding and a limited number of file images to choose from.”
He also said Globe photo editors “make every effort to use the most recent photos available, shot by our own photographers and/or news agencies, over publicity photos when possible. In light of the challenges we faced on this story, we’ll certainly explore other solutions in the future.”
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