This Readers Speak survey was sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors National Credibility Roundtables Project through its Reader Interactive initiative. A total of 29 news organizations sent email to about 11,000 regular readers, and 2,461 responses were received from 45 states and the District of Columbia. Editors involved with APME invited their staffs to answer the same questions, gathering 419 responses from 36 states and the District of Columbia. The results are not scientific; readers who responded are likely to be among the more interactive that newspapers have. They were polled because they had given their email address to their local newspaper, and comments were taken only online.
By Ryan Pitts, Associated Press Managing Editors/Spokane Spokesman-Review
Newspaper readers and journalists agree that a complete news report can’t ignore the disturbing sides of life, but readers are generally more conservative about when — and where — graphic photographs should be published. Responding to an online survey, both groups said that challenging images sometimes describe reality in a way that words can’t. Although few thought the public should be shielded from ugly truths, they all ran into similar concerns when deciding whether specific pictures should run. Readers and journalists alike struggled to balance compassion and family privacy with a broader need for information. They saw value in unflinching descriptions of wartime brutality, but no one wanted to become a tool for terrorist propaganda.