The picture just starts to tell the story

Mike Jenner talked today about how the Californian handled the huge response it received to the photograph and story it published on its front page of dead pets in barrels. You saw that the paper published many of the reponses, giving voice to the diversity of opinion.

Mike sent this note after class to share with all of you:

…with the publication of this piece, we made the issue of throwaway animals something of a crusade, and have published several dozen stories on this topic since then.

And I bet reader feedback helped guide the ongoing reporting of this important story.

The news organization- or reporter-reader relationship is important, though sometimes it’s difficult to tolerate the extremity of reader opinion. We receive phone calls, email and story comments here at the Missourian that I sometimes find offensive. But learning to listen and be receptive is crucial. It was part of the “cultural change” story of the Californian and the secret to success of many new and old journalism projects.

Listening goes a long, long way.

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6 Responses to The picture just starts to tell the story

  1. The photo is actually a lot less gruesome than I imagined in class. I commend the Californian for publishing it, even if it was controversial.

    I also thought it was great that Jenner listened to comments about it and addressed them afterwards. It shows a different side to the story, allows for conversation, and is a perfect example of how the Californian was able to communicate with its readers.

  2. Wow, for me the photographs were like something out of a movie. You want to think this only happens in the movies, not in real life. The pictures, the statistics and the animal rights activists’ voices really put the story together for me. I can see how this kind of article caused people to rethink the way they took care of their animals and got more people involved in advocacy. At first I agreed that the woman, from one of the animal societies was a fascist, by her strong stance on spaying and neutering, but after you read the entire article you start to agree that that would be better than euthanizing over 50 animals a day.

    Also this topic did not strike me as particularly interesting, although I said “you think this doesn’t happen in real life” up above, you know in the back of your head that it happens to an extent, I just had no idea how many animals were euthanized. This article really “humanized” a story about animals that some journalists might brush off as not important enough.

  3. Dustin says:

    The photo isn’t graphic in a gory way, but definitely strikes a chord. It speaks to something of a cognitive dissonance. Is that really a dead puppy lying in a barrel like a forlorn stuffed toy? Sad, but well worth reporting.

  4. danramey says:

    I think the picture is effective in that as soon as I saw it, I really wanted to read the story. It drew me right in and made me very curious. I can see how some people might have a negative impression of that picture on the front page but judging from the subhead, that picture seems to fit right in with where the article is attempting to go.

  5. The picture kind of just slaps you in the face, it’s not overly disgusting, but the message is clear right away.

    I really loved the fact that the paper decided to publish comments and allowed the reader input to steer it’s direction and pursue it in the long term.

    The goal is to serve the reader, after all.

  6. Wow…that’s a powerful photo, and it certainly tells a story. Hard-hitting? Absolutely. But it’s the truth, and it’s our job as journalists to report it.

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