Local papers spurn Cho's image

Posted: Thursday, April 19 at 09:36 am ET by Bill Dedman, MSNBC.com

Cho Seung-Hui's self-portraits made front pages around the globe -- but not here.

The daily paper located 30 miles from the Virginia Tech campus, The Roanoke Times, published five of the photos -- on pages 2 and 3. But Page 1 bore the headline "Healing together," with a photo of a campus memorial.

"I think we all felt pretty strongly that we didn't want to pick the picture -- the easily emotional picture -- of Cho holding the gun," said Carole Tarrant, the managing editor of the Times. "We didn't want to run it large, didn't want to run it out front. We recognized that it's part of the story, but in our community people are still too raw in what they're feeling to put it out on the front page.

”We heard from journalists in the Columbine situation, and talked to a parent of a Columbine student, and his advice to us was don't make a hero out of the gunman. It felt like a day of people just trying to heal. It just didn't feel like the mood of where people are."

The student paper on campus, the Collegiate Times, also ran inside a photo of Cho on a TV screen. "From Tuesday's paper on," Editor Amie Steele told MSNBC.com, "we've focused on the emotional aspect of it, instead of the blood and gore. We haven't run any photo of him on the front page."

The Northern Virginia Daily newspaper in Strasburg, Va., about a three-hour drive from the Virginia Tech campus, ran a Page 1 photo of Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, who threw a no-hitter on Wednesday, but none of the mass murderer.

Nor did Cho's menacing digital images make the front page in Staunton, two hours from campus. Across the state in Norfolk, only a thumbnail-size image appears on the front.

Editors took the opposite course, with prominent photos and headlines, in Charlottesville ("The Shooter Speaks"), Hampton Roads ("View of Madness"), and Richmond ("I didn't have to do this").

You can see how more than 500 different newspapers handled the images at the Newseum online, operated by the Freedom Forum journalism foundation. The site also has a page showing the Virginia papers.

The Roanoke editor, Tarrant, said she has urged her staff to take the long view.

"The swoop-in reporters from out of town can leave a bad impression on reporters who work here as well as the community,” she said. “Those folks will come and go, but we're here for the long haul. We're going to be in the community. That's more important. These little scooplets of the day, that's not the memory we want to leave. We want to be respectful to what people are going through."

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