Public Editor

July 9, 2014

Should The Star publish photo of grieving grandmother?

Kansas City was gripped by the case of a little boy with autism who went missing in Cass County Tuesday. Some readers questioned a photograph The Star published to illustrate the sorrowful end of the search.

The lead image in the print edition of The Kansas City Star and on for much of the past day is undeniably powerful: The grandmother of Tony Eugene “Gene” Cory-Ferguson reacts with grief to the news that the body of missing 5-year-old boy, who had autism, had been found in a pond near his home. Out of deference to these readers, I won’t post it here, but it’s the lead image with the story here.

“There was absolutely no value or reason for showing the picture of the grieving grandmother,” emailed one reader. “The story was newsworthy but the reporting borders on a supermarket tabloid.”

Other terms I heard: “Massive intrusion on a family’s grief.” “Unnecessary.” “Egregious.”

I conveyed these concerns to the senior editor over the photography department, who tells me multiple editors weighed these concerns last night, and they ultimately came to the decision that the news value of the photograph merited its use in this way.

There’s no right or wrong answer, as it’s a compelling photo, and it’s reasonable to object to its publication.

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