I know I’m going to get flak from my MSM friends, especially at the PD, but I can’t help it – that title says it all re: how I hear Doug Clifton’s comments (even if he had no intention of sending that message) in Thursday’s Editor & Publisher:
About 30 to 40 readers complained to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland about the decision to publish on its front page four frames of an armed Cho acting menacingly. About a dozen of those calls came to Editor Doug Clifton.
“If there’s a pattern to (the reaction) it’s principally women who are repulsed by” the images, Clifton said.
Like many papers, the P-D ultimately decided that the images represented the horror of what happened on the Blacksburg campus Monday, Clifton said: “People have said we shouldn’t run them at all, but I think that would be unwise because the reaction among the curious — the appropriately curious — would be, what are you holding back? What are you concealing?”
The P-D went with all four images after a long newsroom debate in which the argument that carrying multiple images of the killer’s poses would blunt the impact of the “iconic” frame in which Cho stands with guns in both outstretched arms.
Really? Well, doesn’t identifying the complaints as being from women who are repulsed tell us something?
My preference for what Clifton could have told us that would be useful, if he’s going to generalize the comments: what exactly did the complaints oppose? What were the grounds of the opposition to the pictures? Why didn’t Clifton generalize in terms of a pattern as to why people thought the pictures shouldn’t run, as opposed to who thought the pictures shouldn’t run?
Not who was complaining. Talk about a way to invalidate the substance of the complaints. Just chalk it up to repulsed women because, well, we all know that women who find something repulsive tells us…what?? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, other than reinforcing stereotypes of who will and who will not approve of harsh images: women – weak. men – strong.
Not to mention, if Clifton received 12 calls, and he’s saying it’s principally women who are repulsed, how many of the 30-40 total complaints are we talking about as being “principally” upset? Is his characterization fair, or accurate?
In addition to granting that Clifton probably didn’t have this intent in mind (to reinforce the stereotype that women don’t like such pictures; which, btw, is very possibly linked to the fact that the women might be mothers who are concerned about what the kids will see when going to the grocery store, the library or passing by the places where you can buy a paper), I will also grant that his response could have to do with the way he was asked the question about whether there were any patterns in the complaint. But we have no clues about that (editors editing out such stuff from interviews).
Except for this, also from the E & P piece:
“In retrospect, if I had to do it all over again, wee[sic] probably would have gone with fewer pictures,” Clifton said. “I probably would not have used the photo of him pointing the gun directly at the reader because that is disturbing.”
Ah! Because the images are disturbing. Now see? That would have been a useful way to generalize the complaints: that complainants found the images disturbing because of the in-your-face nature of his pose.
Mr. Clifton, you’re retiring in just under four weeks. Most of your decisions will now be in retrospect. After all these years, how is it that you didn’t make the better decision about the pictures before publication?
And yeah, I know – I’m one of those women who is repulsed. But you see? I don’t get the PD anymore. So you don’t get my complaints. Well, not, almost.