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Afghanistan bombing photo: Graphic, yet important

Kabul-A1The attacks on Shiite Muslim gatherings in Afghanistan, which killed at least 59 people Tuesday, were shocking. So was the image of the aftermath, which ran on Wednesday's front page.

Several readers said they were disturbed by the photo of a blood-spattered young woman, screaming as she finds herself surrounded by bodies. Moments earlier she had been part of a procession to a Kabul shrine to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura. Times reporters said a suicide bomber hid among the crowd of worshippers. Many of the victims were women and children.

"I can’t believe that you would put a photo like this in your paper, let alone on the front page," wrote Louis Cunningham of Ventura. "Yes, this goes on, and we know it. But we don't need it on the front page of a paper for all of the kids in the world to see."

Erlin France of Los Angeles wrote: "That's the way to go, L.A. Times: Put dead children on the front page. You are disgusting."

And Rolando Valdovinos of East Los Angeles said he found the image "extremely graphic." "Showing kids laying lifeless is uncalled for," he wrote. "Just take a couple of seconds to stare at that photograph yourself. Tell me the lifeless image of the toddler in yellow doesn’t sicken your stomach!"

The scene was difficult for AFP/Getty photographer Massoud Hossaini as well. He told the New York Times, which also ran the image on its front page, that he realized he was weeping as he took photos after the suicide bombing. He said he continued to cry as he drove to his office, as he transmitted the images and as he drove home. "I have never experienced that before," he told the New York Times' Lens blog.

Deputy Managing Editor Colin Crawford, who oversees the Los Angeles Times' photography staff,  responds:

We never run this type of image without discussions at the highest levels in the newsroom.

We understand that it is a tough image to look at, but we felt the news value of the photo made it worth publishing. We feel that we cannot hide important news from our readers, even when it is unpleasant.

The war in Afghanistan is an important and complicated story, and the violence seems to never end. In these attacks, the fact that it was sectarian violence adds yet another layer to the complexity of the situation.

The photo, while gut-wrenching, shows just how many innocents are being killed. The bodies of dead, maimed and wounded children breaks your heart but also lets you know how indiscriminate the killing has become.

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo: A cropped version of Wednesday's front-page photo. Credit: Massoud Hossaini / AFP/Getty Images


 
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Comments (11)

Too graphic?? Oh please! Try being over here doing health care for 2 or 3 years and think about what you would have seen. It's time the namby-pamby, do-gooders understan just how crazed the INS really are. You just don't sit down, drink a cup of chai, and sing Kumbia with them. The photo just tells it like it really is here. I know, I was less than a half mile from that bombing.

I think this is a very important photograph to show. This is real. This is happening in the world. There are multiple horrific wars happening simultaneously and it seems like most people in the U.S. don't realize it unless they, or a loved one, has served overseas or is an activist. To be sure, we're all feeling the effects of it, as there's certainly a connection between the economic crisis at home at the war abroad. The world is in crisis. There should be more reality on the front pages of the papers, not less. We shouldn't be insulated from the truth. It might be hard for us to see, but just as the nurse said above, it's even harder for the survivors to live with everyday. We don't want to see such things because then we have to think about it and if we think about it, we'll realize we have a responsibility to do something to end it. If it was happening here, to women and children at a church on Sunday, we'd want the whole world to know and to mourn with us. Anyone who said they didn't want to talk about it or see it would be labeled un-american. Let's mourn together for the loss of every child, every person killed in every war and let us come together to find a true and lasting peace. We can start by getting educated on the realities of war that are happening right now, even as you read this post.

How else are we to know how much is at stake unless those on the scene show these gut wrenching images and accompany them with the facts.

It is very sad to see people not wanting to at least have a look at what is happening in Afghanistan. These are the realities, why dont you let your children know how the Afghan kids are suffering? does their blood have another color? are they not humans?
Let these pictures shock the US politicians and people, let them see what they have brought to Afghanistan under the name of "war on terror".
why is that everyone trying to ignore the realities.

American news media is already among the world's most sanitized. The news media in most other parts of the world unflinchingly show the results of man's inhumanity to man.

Perhaps if the American news media were less reluctant to show Americans the tragic results of violence, we, as a people, would be less inclined to support it, let alone resort to it.

I just wanted to offer my whole hearted support for your decision to run with the graphic photo from Afghanistan. Your decision showed courage and commitment to telling news truthfully. Something we should all yearn for more of and commend when achieved. The photo was graphic but the story and the facts were graphic and heart wrenching. You could not look at the photo, read the story and not feel something whether it be disgust, shock or sadness. To evoke this response of readers from the storytelling is what great journalism is all about. Spin, fact massaging and compiling of news stories on the cheap is becoming an all to prominent occurrence in journalism around the world. I hope you continue to show and tell your stories as honestly as you did this story.

Americans need to see more disturbing photos of war, not fewer. Far too many of us expected our invasion of Iraq to be a "cakewalk." I couldn't believe what I read on the Internet from the young-adult crowd then. So many of them thought that, simply because our troops are American, they could go off to fight a war without their hands getting dirty. And many of them expected Afghanistan to be a showcase of democracy, Western freedoms and progress by now. The U.S. media is complicit in this ignorance, because they do their best to edit out the most gruesome details of bloody conflict. We need stronger doses of reality.

Puh-leeze.... show us what is really going on, even if it's ugly and 'graphic'. Everyone should be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Even if it's really ugly........ which it is, most of the time.

When the American people begin to see that the profound grief being expressed by the woman in the picture of the Afghanistan bombing is NORMAL in the world at large, then maybe they can begin to understand America's place in the world.

I am ashamed that some would hide this from their children. Rather, they should be showing it to their children and explaining that what they are seeing is what we must fight to eliminate in the world.

They should also explain that the picture shows the result of theocratic war--Muslim, Christian, Jewish,-- it is all the same when God "speaks" to crazies.

I spent almost 30 years defending this nation in its Army, and now I have come to understand that I have been defending cowards.

Shame on us!

Sanford D. Cook
LTC USA (Ret)

I applaud your editorial decision. It's good for children to grow up understanding the horrible truth about war. I remember as a young child of four or five seeing large-scale images of bloody carnage documenting the Vietnam War in magazines like Look and Life. It made an indelible impression on me and I have never been able to romanticize war. I've been anti-war all my life because of it. If only we had been exposed to many more of these truth-telling images instead of the sanitization and suppression that has gone on.

to all who are offended by the image: one might remember what Jesus said: "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out."


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