Monday, January 6, 2014

A Difference of Opinion

The top half of yesterday's New York Times carried a photo I found incredibly offensive and disturbing. Surely many other people felt the same. As I do in such situations, I registered my feelings in a letter to the editor:

"As a former newspaper Art Director (Oakland Tribune), I must say that you should fire yours today. The photograph that dominates the front page above the fold is so wrong! Not only is the subject matter horribly depressing, but the photo is mostly just background color. And the image of a crying child I first thought was a monkey, being held by what looks like someone in a Darth Vader costume, is very disturbing. I might have to cancel my subscription."

Within minutes I received the standard automated response thanking me for my letter. I then went about my business. But within the hour I got another email, this time one of substance:

Dear Ms. Rouda:

I am happy to pass along your feedback.  After all, I am sure when you were an Art Director you received tons of feedback -- including  criticism, given how subjective the fields of design and photography can be. 
So far we have received four e-mails from readers saying they thought it was a stunning photo and thought it would win awards. One wanted to buy a copy of it. You and another reader thought the opposite. So that sounds about right to me. We have, yet again, published an edition of the newspaper in which all 1.3 million of our readers will not agree with everything in it. 

Thanks for reading The Times, even on days when you feel we have fallen way below your standards and those you upheld at The Tribune.
Best regards, 
Greg Brock
Senior Editor for Standards
I was stunned for two reasons: One, that some readers found the photograph pleasing and one even wanted to own it, and thus be able to see it constantly. And two, that an executive at the newspaper had taken the time to write such a courteous reply.

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