Why some pictures are worth more than a thousand words

BUY a newspaper any day of the week and you’ll find stories of death and destruction.

Murders, bombings, natural disasters, child abuse, assaults and the list goes on.

Not always within our community but within someone’s community.

And you’ll find the same thing online.

It’s not nice news but it is news, just like Monday’s livestock truck rollover in Wodonga was news in this community.

Despite all the bad stuff in the paper, rarely does an article evoke as much reaction from readers as those stories in which animals have suffered, or been killed.

On Tuesday, The Border Mail front page image depicted the aftermath of the truck rollover with the carcasses of dead sheep on the road.

It was a graphic image but by no means the worst of what could have been published.

By the accounts of anyone who came upon it, it was an awful scene as sheep lay dead and maimed across the road, and police officers were forced to use their firearms to put the animals that were suffering out of their misery.

But it wasn’t surprising that the picture on our front page met with disapproval from a number of readers who called our office and emailed.

One reader was in tears.

Then there was the phone call from a butcher who told us his customers had complained to him.

Surely, it has to be pointed out that there’s a glaring irony in going to a butcher to buy dead animals for dinner and while there, complaining to the butcher ... about a picture of dead animals.

But to what extent should a newspaper censor the news in considering people’s sensitivities?

One point raised was that the picture was not an appropriate thing for children to see.

The picture should have run — if at all — inside the newspaper, instead of on the front page.

You may agree or disagree with that point.

It’s my view that putting it on the front page immediately gave any parent, or teacher, notice that it may not have been an appropriate thing for a child to see.

After all, it is up to parents to censor the information that comes into the lives of their children in every other medium, isn’t it?

Something readers might not know is how much consideration is always given to the selection of these kinds of pictures.

That doesn’t mean people can’t be offended — if that’s how they feel, that’s how they feel and it’s not up to anyone to tell them they should feel differently.

But it’s interesting that it is always these kinds of pictures — those of dead animals — that evoke the strongest and most emotional reaction.

Even when the animals involved are bred to end up on our dinner plate.

What do we think happens at abattoirs? We know they’re not cuddled to death.

But obviously, we do abhor the idea of an animal suffering.

And thankfully, police were quick to ensure that the suffering of those animals injured on Monday was not prolonged.

Not a task to be envied.

Let’s face it. Many of us meat-eaters would not be meat-eaters for long if we had to catch and kill our own.

Most of us are happy to buy our lamb chops and mince meat from the butcher or the supermarket and give absolutely no thought at all as to how it came to be there.

There were other unpublished images from Monday’s truck roll-over that were more graphic and more confronting. Then there were others that were completely inoffensive, pictures of the sheep that were not hurt, and did not have to be put down. There wouldn’t have been a single phone call about those images.

A newspaper could choose to publish only those inoffensive kinds of pictures.

But that option would have been a misrepresentation of what actually happened. The picture showed it for what it was, but some of you would rather not have known.