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Today in my class in The Course Formerly Known as Editing, I passed around a photograph of a young man who had been impaled through the neck at the top of a spiky, wrought-iron fence. The photo is not bloody, and the young man survived.

I've used this photo in previous years to generate a lively give-and-take discussion about how to decide whether to publish the photo. In today's class, though, the mood was as muted as the inside of a sepulcher. Three or maybe four students chimed in with thoughtful comments; the rest just stared silently at the photo on the table in front of them. The discussion lasted perhaps 10 minutes.

After it was clear the photo discussion was going over like a plutonium pancake, I immediately moved along to an exercise to be done in class for a grade. I'm thinking, though, that if this photo failed to generate any interest, it's going to be a long semester.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
Last week, I almost had to make a editorial decision that I didn't want to along the same lines as the pic you showed in class. An incredibly drunk guy in Salamanca allegedly threatened to commit suicide by jumping off a building a stone's throw from The Press. With all the police and fire dept. crews out in the street, I had to go out there to cover it. However, I was told to bring the camera. Thankfully, the guy wasn't on the roof, and I was able to take a pic of the fire trucks.

I'm really glad the best-case scenario happened, but in thinking about it, it was a really uncomfortable situation because I would never want to run a picture of a guy on a roof, especially if he jumped -- nonetheless take the pic of the guy.
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
You can always decide *not* to run the photo, but you've got to take it so you can make that decision.
Sep. 21st, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Salamanca huh?
Thecriz5 - I'm very surprised I didn't hear about this, living in Salamanca and all; gossip spreads like wildfire. Forgive me for being nosey, but do you work at the Salamanaca Press?

felixwas - My apologizes for going off topic. It is really sad/pathetic that students would have literally nothing to say. However, I do wonder if a lot of them are simply afraid to say anything.
I took Media Ethics last semester with Hanchette and Coppola, and at the beginning of the semester, I was honestly too scared to say a dang thing. Its stinks enough to screw up a question on editing, but to make a bad judgment call on something like that? Some people just aren’t comfortable with revealing that much about themselves. And some people just aren’t equipped to making those kinds of decisions.
Maybe it would be better to send them home with something like that, give them a chance to really ponder it? The good thing is, they won’t be tossed in the real world the next day and be expected to make that kind of decision.
Sep. 21st, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Salamanca huh?
Yes I do.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
Re: Salamanca huh?
A few thoughts, Brenna:

• I think Hanch and the dean are a heck of a lot more intimidating than yours truly.

• I thought I'd made it clear at the start of the discussion that there weren't any "right" or "wrong" answers.

• These aren't first-year students, and they should be able to stand in the fire by now.

Having said that, your idea of sending it home and discussing the next day is probably a better way to generate a discussion than just dropping it on them. Thanks for the suggestion.
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
I remember that picture. It started quite the fiery exchange in our class. Here's hoping there was just a marked caffeine deficit at the RC cafe this morning?
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping it was just a collective off day. I realize 8:30 classes are a drag, and I realize editing isn't the sexiest course, but except for three or four students (who made some insightful comments), the rest of the class was zombie-woof.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Rich, I had planned on taking that photo into the same class for a discussion and then a listen to some radio commentary about the controversy, but after today's class I'm not sure. Your "chances are" comment will be part of the discussion if it happens, though.
Sep. 17th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
I remember that picture. I actually really liked that picture in a way, and I liked the discussion our class had about it. Sorry to hear about the plutonium pancakes. How unpleasant. =(
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
This is the first time the photo failed to spark debate. As for the plutonium pancakes, that's where my mind eventually landed after I began to play with alternatives for the concept of the fabled "lead balloon."
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
ahah! I wondered where that tag came from.
Sep. 18th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Haha....plutonium pancake. I love your imagery.
Sep. 18th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it.

When I was growing up, you didn't get coal in your Christmas stocking if you'd been bad. You got—and this is an invention of one of my sisters—a "hairy pancake." I suppose plutonium is the next step in its evolution.
Sep. 18th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
That photo always grosses me out SO much.
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
Judging by the reaction of most of the students, you'd think I'd passed out one of the Yellow Pages.
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)
silly freshman. these are the conversations i miss the most. Indifference isnt an option. you have 15 minutes to decide to run this picture in your paper, that has your name on it as editor or whatev. what do you do? these are the conversations and exchanges I miss dearly. Provided I wasnt 12.5 hrs away I'd be happy to come and sit and talk to classes of any of the JMC profs.
Sep. 18th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
"Indifference isn't an option." Perfect.

Sep. 18th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the internet is to blame for this. I remember hearing about this particular exercise, and also one involving Media Ethics where they showed the clip of Budd Dwyer shooting himself fatally on television. At the time, I was more than a little disturbed.

Now? I've seen beheadings and hangings on the internet, not to mention crime scene photos by the score. I'm not entirely sure it would gross me out anymore either.

But not having an opinion? That's unforgivable. Just because I wouldn't be losing my lunch doesn't mean I don't have strong opinions about if that kind of material should be released.

Kids today...
Sep. 19th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
I like your point about images and the internet.

But I like this point even better: "But not having an opinion? That's unforgivable."
Sep. 22nd, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
In my War, Media and Propaganda class, we had a pretty spirited debate about the photo of the mortally wounded solider. I was surprised at how many people were critical of the photog for taking it. It's like you said Felix, you can always not run a photo, but you've got to take it to make that decision in the first place.

As far as generating discussion, I'm still learning how to do that in a classroom myself. The law professor I'm an IA for has a saying he uses when asking for questions that I like. He says, "If you're wondering something, chances are somebody else is wondering the same thing, too." It usually works.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
I guess I've got to start this class (an 8:30) with a little yoga to get the blood flowing.

One of my favorite tricks for generating a discussion is having each student take off her or his left shoe and put it on the desk. Try *that* when your law prof is around.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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