Open Casket Funerals: Should The Photos Be Published?

September 2, 2010
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With the war in Iraq said to be over as far as US combat troops are concerned, the number of casualties in Afghanistan is increasing rapidly. A number of photographs moved on the AP and Getty wire today including ones from the funerals of three soldiers killed last week. One of the three was an open-casket funeral.

We often are hesitant to run photos showing the deceased in the paper. I think editors here (and at other papers I’ve worked at) are overly sensitive to publishing these. If the family has invited us to attend and document the event and freely chooses to have its loved one on display then why would we, in the gatekeeper role, disregard their wishes?

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In the photo, by AP photographer Mel Evans, Denise Meletiche leans over to kiss her son, Army Spc. Pedro A. Millet Meletiche, 20, during a funeral service at the Christ Fellowship Church, in Elizabeth, Meletiche died Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, during a combat operation in Afghanistan.

The image below is the type we would usually run from this type of funeral. To his credit, Evans shot both knowing full well that many still won’t run the former. The casket is out of focus and in the background. Out of sight, out of mind? Are our readers’ sensibilities protected by us deciding that they don’t need to see the face of the dead?

This wasn’t an image we needed for tomorrow’s paper so the question never came up. It has before and I’m most often on the losing side of the debate. So you know what my choice would have been.

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Source: Dallas News

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