Thursday, January 14, 2010


This is my week to build the news pages of the newspaper at work. Every week we rotate between working on the feature section and the A-section (news) of the newspaper. That way us designers get a little break from all the “bad news” we deal with when doing the A-section. But this is my week on “A” and the news is grim.

Since the earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday, I’ve had to sift through images much of the public will never see. Images of dead babies, mangled bodies, and heartbreaking photos of grieving and suffering people. I have to find images sent over the wire that convey the scope of the disaster, yet conform to our sanitized view of the news. After all, we don’t want to actually see death -- that would ruin our breakfast.

So it’s my job to censor the news -- Well, may santize is a better word. Your news is sanitized to some extent no matter where you live in the U.S. Americans don’t want to see death and destruction in their morning papers, or on TV. All of the newspapers I’ve worked for, 7 or so, have had policies against showing bodies, or even survivors if they are too bloody. It’s a pretty common policy for most U.S. papers. Don’t expose the readers to the harsh realities of the real world, or so it goes.

So, for the past two days I’ve been wading through grotesque images searching for ones that will speak to readers, yet not offend them. Images that will hopefully move them, challenge them to help, or pray, or at least give Haiti a passing thought. Some may argue that images of people grieving is an invasion of privacy. All I can say is that in an event of this magnitude, the whole world is grieving. We all carry the weight of the loss of life in that tiny little country and that those images should help unite prayers and efforts worldwide.

(Page 1A two days after the quake in Haiti)

Below is an excerpt from a story from Haiti. I hope the Times or the writers won’t mind me sharing it with you. You can find the story in its entirety at The story is written by Joe Mozingo and Tracy Wilkinson. It is heartbreaking and raw, but it tells what the people in Haiti are going through.

... “Look at how many people die here on the ground. No one comes to see them. Right now there is still someone crying in a building down there.” He led a reporter up a bank of rubble onto the roof of a collapsed school. A dozen men holed up in a cave with a small hand pick and a crowbar. The five floors of the school had sandwiched into one. In a little pocket of air between the layers, a woman was alive. They heard her knocking a rock against the concrete about 8 a.m. They started digging.
They found out her name, Emelen Marche. She was a young mother who had come to the school to pay her children’s tuition.
By 5 p.m., the men had been working for seven hours in the muggy heat, gathering flies and the nauseous smell of decomposing corpses. Two bodies were bloating up on the basketball court 20 yards away, a man was sprawled on the roof just a few feet away, and in another hole in the roof, the top half of a man who looked like a teacher lay crushed by a girder, still wearing his spectacles.
Marche, the young mother, appeared likely to make it. The men gave her water and food through the hole. Jean Eddy Fleurantin took his turn with the pick. A young boy came down with a rusty hacksaw to cut through rebar.
She was talking. “Don’t do that!” she would yell, when their strikes with the pick came too close to her hand.
As the sun set behind the mountains, and total darkness approached, a reporter asked when they thought she might come out.
“That’s in God’s hands,” Fleurantin said.
Even if she gets out, there is no happy ending to this story. The two children whose tuition Marche came to pay were crushed to death in their home.

Be safe

1 comment:

NJ said...

So sad. I wish wasn't so sanitized in the US...maybe we would have a lot less greedy and self-centered people. Life is way too watered down and we live in a bubble of protection. But I guess if we don't see it we don't have to do something about it, right? (sarcasm) Thank you for's good to be faced with the reality of what others in the world deal with so we don't lose our compassion.


What do you do when you don't have time to go out on location to do urban sketching? My time is very limited and I often don't have ...