Time cover of terrified child at Boston Marathon is disturbing media trend
Time's tablet-only Boston Marathon cover shows a bloodied and terrified child in the arms of a police officer. The controversy sparked is not unfamiliar to modern Time covers that have used children in provocative ways.
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I remember when the Time cover image of the towers exploding came out the next week that Lou was moved. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he and his wife find the use of children in crisis as cover fodder to be “sad.”Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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“Lou would be the first to tell you how much things have changed in the way the news is illustrated and covers are done nowadays,” said his wife. “He just shakes his head when he sees what’s going on.”
When Time covered the assassination of Robert Kennedy in its June 14, 1968, issue, they bypassed using a widely circulated photo of Mr. Kennedy on the floor on the Ambassador Hotel mortally wounded, and instead ran a portrait of the senator illustrated by Lou.
Lou used to tell me about how Time got his covers. They would tell him the topic and he would research it, read their stories thoroughly and then paint the cover art on canvas. For a cover story on John F. Kennedy he was flown to The White House and sat in the Oval Office to sketch the president. Some of those sketches and preliminary cover paintings were on display at our NAC event.
Lou would always paint three versions for each Time cover to give the editor plenty of options. Then a helicopter would fly in from New York to a little local air strip near his home.
He told me how he never knew which they had chosen until he went to the news stand to get a copy. None of the 80 covers he painted were of children nursing at age 6 with a bare-breasted mom mugging for the camera (the illustration of a cover story on attachment parenting published May 21), or of a child in torment, blood, and ruin (the Boston marathon bombing issue released today).
Perhaps if the editors took as much time to think about their cover choices as Lou took to paint his covers they would realize there is something more important than the impact an image has on sales. This week’s image in particular impacted America’s ability to recover from the violence.
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You can sell news products with class, objectivity, accuracy, and stunning images that do not stun us into the fetal position through horror. There is a line between poignant and prurient that the visual images of Boston Marathon and other tragedies have crossed.
As parents, grandparents, and consumers we should listen to experts like David Schonfeld, chief pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, a member of the Sandy Hook Commission on School Crises, who said of this trend in reporting: “I don’t understand why they run the same images over and over consecutively, forensically on the news and online. We just don’t need those images in our heads.”
We don’t need those images in our heads, or on our covers. We don’t need to exploit the pain of our children in a way that lines pockets and makes terror mongers smile with satisfaction.