Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Message received on court photos

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When the court photos entered as evidence in the trial of Col. Russell Williams started to roll in Monday evening, those of us in the Free Press newsroom experienced the same emotions as anyone else.

The pictures ranged from the obsessively neat rows of purloined women's lingerie to the photos that a grim-faced Williams took of himself in them.

They were disturbing. Even though we had already read about these photos in the stories coming from the trial, it was one thing to read about them, and another to see them. This was clearly a case in which pictures conveyed more than words.

The Crown and police investigators put these photos on the public record because they want this man behind bars for the rest of his life. Every video transcript, every photo, every word Williams wrote or said has been laid out this week, lest no one underestimate the enormity of his crimes. No one in 25 years will be able to say this man deserves a chance at a pardon.

We looked at the photos and started to debate the front page. Could we run one of Williams's early self-portraits?

To me, they told the tale at a glance, depicting the secret life of a man near the top of Canada's military hierarchy, before he would go on to become one of Canada's most notorious killers.

Our first A1 layout was rejected as too sensational; the same presentation, in fact, that ended up on the front of The Toronto Star.

I approved the final version at 10:40 Monday night. And by 7:15 the next morning, I received my first complaint.

You've seen some of them already on the Letters page.

We're running a range of views with this column today.

They basically say the same thing, however: This is not what I want to see on the front page of the newspaper I bring into my home every morning.

That message was received, loud and clear.

I'm sorry.

I won't forget the lesson learned in this, that when we start justifying the play and the legitimacy of a news photo, we are probably about to cross a line.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

We will strive to be more circumspect in the future.


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Did you have to put such a salacious picture on the front of this morning's paper?

I understand in this day and age that sex sells and that, sadly, we have to have frank discussions with our young children about sexual predators. But do we have to do this all before 7 a.m.?

Would a teaser such as "See inside for pictures" not have sufficed?

We feel that we are very open with our 10-year-old son and, hopefully, have instilled in him a sense of caution when it comes to the many different types of people he will meet. But, honestly, does he have to deal with it so early on in the morning? What a way to start school!

Alison McKay



-- -- --

How could you be so senseless?

Your cover, which shows a picture of Col. Russell Williams wearing women's underwear, accompanied by the words, How Could They Not Know? is the worst, most senseless, fear-mongering suggestive "journalism" I've seen in some time. Were you actually trying to incite violence against transgenders, transvestites, cross-dressers, and female impersonators? Or was it just cluelessness on your part? People without basic critical skills -- or the people who don't take the time to actually read -- will see your cover and its not-so-subtle association as suggesting the image of a man who wear women's clothing should be taken as a warning sign to violence, rape, and murder. Did your editors not hear about the recent spate of gay teen suicides that came as a result of bullying? How do you think a transgender person will be treated thanks to your cover?

Chance Taylor



-- -- --

If this is hard-hitting news reporting or serving the "public's right to know," then please stop the world; I want off. Isn't it enough that we have the details of this case on radio, TV and online without having his picture as front page fodder, too? I don't see the old adage of "if you don't want to see it, then don't look" applying here with this picture staring me in the face at every store, paperbox and gas station in town. Would you tell me if the editor plans to explain this picture to every impressionable child who sees this? What purpose did putting this picture on the front page serve; unless it's to cut the paper's readership? Trust me, I'm not a prudish senior citizen unaware of alternative lifestyle but this photo in the context of the break-in/assault/murder trial was downright sickening.

Austin Porco



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2010 A15

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