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Photo reflects choices in crisis

He was someone?s son. Someone?s brother, perhaps. Maybe even someone?s father. And on Sept. 11, he became a part of history.

On that same day, and the day after for newspapers that didn?t print an extra 9-11-01 edition about the terrorist attacks, photographs of him falling to his death from the World Trade Center (or similar photos) were published across the nation.

The moment that image began appearing in extra editions, some Oracle staffers began planning for it to be in our Sept. 12 paper ? it was a part of the nation?s most horrific story that had to be told.

Two weeks later, the comments and letters about that photo are still coming.

Most recently, at Bull Session this weekend, a young lady asked, ?Are you the editor??

?Yes,? I said.

?I just have to tell you, I?m disgusted with The Oracle. You are no better than the National Enquirer,? she said. ?I used to read your paper all the time. Now I don?t. You shouldn?t have run the photo of that man jumping from the building.?

While the photo was discussed in classrooms across campus, Oracle reporters said our printing the image was a heated topic in mass communications classes as well, where as a journalist, I?d hope our decision would be supported, or at least our reasoning understood. After all, journalism students are more educated when it comes to the language of the media and deciding what is newsworthy. Yet, those same students flooded our e-mail with letters of disapproval.

The St. Petersburg Times, ?Florida?s Best Newspaper,? devoted the entire back page of its extra edition to the chilling image.

?? as a human being I was in shock,? Sue Morrow of the St. Pete Times told, a resource that offers suggestions to the journalism community on how to improve. ?Then as a journalist, I recognized that this was what we had to do for our readers. We had to convey the human tragedy.?

Eric Meskauskas, New York Daily News, is quoted by Poynter as saying, ?We ran it full-page ? This isn?t high school. It?s the real world and we shouldn?t shield our readers from it.?

Then there was Clyde Mueller with The New Mexican.

He told Poynter, ?We didn?t run the ?jumper photo? and somehow I feel that we failed to visually tell the reality of the inner horror of the story.?

The ethical decisions surrounding this one part of that ongoing story, I dare say, were discussed in every newsroom across the country.

There are newspapers that did not print the photo and stand by that decision. Log onto to read more about editorial decisions to print the image.

The Oracle made the decision to print the picture because it told a different part of the story ? horror was a real thing to those in the World Trade Center that day. The image was powerful. Most importantly, it was real.

There is no way of knowing what was on the minds of each of the thousands of people in the Twin Towers as they burst into flames and crumbled two weeks ago.

What we do know, from the pictures that tell the story, is that for some, death was certain.

Kevin Graham is a junior majoring in journalism and is editor in chief of The Oracle.