Monday, November 5, 2007

When we show photos of graffiti vandalism

Q: I was disappointed to see that the Trib actually printed an easily read photo of the graffiti that appeared in Atascadero yesterday (Nov. 1). The entire reason for doing that crime is for public recognition and claiming a stake on a territory. You glorify the crime by showing a photo of it, especially a photo easily identifying the vandal’s tag.
_ Diana

The photo that Diana is concerned about actually did not get published in The Tribune, but appeared on But her question is still relevant: Why did we cover an act of vandalism with a photo?
To be sure, we generally avoid running pictures of vandalism for the reason she raises: The people who commit such crimes seek notoriety and publishing such photos only encourages them. There will be exceptions, however. In this case, we posted the photo because it showed one part of what was a fairly significant defacing at a public elementary school in Atascadero. Schools are regarded as safe havens in our society, so when that line is crossed by an act like vandalism, it is newsworthy. Our breaking news story about the vandalism also noted that other spray painting had occurred over a two-day stretch elsewhere in Atascadero, and involved a business and private property.
For most of Thursday, when the story first appeared on our Web site, viewers could only see the photo if they clicked on the breaking news headline about the vandalism. We did not make the photo a prominent part of our online report.
_ Tad Weber


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation. I was the person that wrote regarding that photo. In the future, it would probably be more prudent to abstract the photo's composition to be sure that an entire name or tag was not readable. My issue with that shot in particular was that the person's tagging name was clearly read, a taggers dream. A shot of the last few letters would have been preferable and would have just as clearly shown the damage done by the vandals.

Zuke said...

I would agree with Diana in that the graffiti should have at least been blurred out so it was not legible, but you could still see the context of what was violated by the thug(s).