Ask the Editor: Graphic images

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, June 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time now for the June edition of Ask the Editor.

But before we get to it, a reminder that we want to hear from you. If you have a question about why WORLD operates the way it does, please send it in.

You can email us at feedback-at-worldandeverything-dot-com. Or you can call our listener feedback line: 202-709-9595.

REICHARD: Alright, well on today’s Ask the Editor segment, WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky explains why sometimes we have to run graphic images in the magazine—and online.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: The question about graphic images is a frequent one. We try to keep it in mind when choosing photos to accompany bad-news articles. It can be a tough judgment call.

We are careful in choosing photos for stories about war and disaster. We may show a long-range photograph of charred bodies in a war zone. Or people jumping from the World Trade Center on 9/11. But we would not show close-ups of those same events. One reason involves the privacy of victims. Another is the way photographic images can become etched in our minds.

Here’s the tension: Good journalism emphasizes specific detail. Photos help do that job. Stories about ISIS or abortion help us remember how desperately the world needs Christ. Well-told stories with appropriate photos or sound move readers and listeners to pray and take action against evil. And we know the Bible includes some graphic descriptions of killing, adultery, and even cannibalism.

But we’re not God. He infallibly knows when to describe evil and when not to. We make mistakes. Yes, we post warnings before some articles. And at WORLD Radio we also advise listeners when a story has troubling elements. We don’t want small children to see or hear some stories until they’re older.

We still have hard choices to make. For instance, if we decide we need to run a photo, how big should it be? In our April 28th issue we told how a Vietnamese woman came to Christ. Back when she was a 9-year-old child, she was the central figure in a famous photo showing the aftermath of a napalm attack. The photo shows her naked and running, screaming in pain. We ran the photo to jog readers’ memories—but we ran only a tiny version of it. About one inch high and an inch-and-a-half wide.

Questions over graphic images and sounds remind me of a section in Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. She describes chaperoning her church’s youth group in Toronto. A man with a wild mane of graying hair started yelling at the children: ”Fried my brain on crack, know what I mean?… Don’t do crack, know what I mean?” Ann writes—quote—“His rage shakes us. Shakes the drowsy, shakes the slumbering…and it terrifies.”  She ends up thanking the wild man for shaking her and the young people with her.

Sometimes we need to watch and listen to wild men and wild things. Please pray for us that we will get this right—that we will give just enough of the bad news to make all of us yearn for the Good News.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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