Who Runs Ads on a Slideshow of A Horrible Crash? The Independent Record

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We all know times are tough for newspapers. Things are apparently so bad at the Independent Record that it, according to a source, recently offered a job to a reporter then rescinded the offer “last minute” because funding for the position was cut. But even in the most desperate of financial circumstances, which I find it hard to believe the IR really faces, you don’t monetize a tragedy—and certainly not the day that three people lost their lives in an auto accident.

This evening, an Independent Record reader sent me a link that even this bitter critic of the local paper found hard to believe. Hours after a two car, three fatality crash, the Independent Record’s web page offered a sensitive link to a slide show of the accident under the title “Crash Pics.” On their Facebook page, they teased a “complete photo gallery of the scene,” complete with an image of one of the crash victims lying on his gurney for transport to the hospital.

Now, there’s a legitimate news function in covering the crash and even including photos from the scene, but it’s more than a bit unseemly to use sensational images and callous headlines to generate clicks from readers. But that’s not the worst of what the IR did. The slideshow of the accident is interspersed with ads for dentists, credit card companies, RVs, and more. The paper certainly has to cover difficult stories and occasionally has to run upsetting photos, but there’s a line between commercial news gathering and ghoulish exploitation. I’d argue that this ad over this image falls strongly into the latter camp.

The response on the IR’s Facebook page suggest that other people found their decision to monetize human tragedy a bit disturbing. One commenter wrote:

How about if we not post a “photo gallery” of the most terrible day in many people’s lives? I believe this to be the most uncompassionate, disrespectful, uncaring and disturbing thing! Please remove this “photo gallery”.

While another added:

Leave it to the Helena ir to cash in on tragedy.

Covering a tragic event is no doubt difficult for the press, with all sorts of ethical dilemmas to be faced. Deciding whether to pimp on an online photo gallery to generate some sad, small ad revenue isn’t one of those hard choices at all.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Greg Strandberg
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How would you suggest the IR go about increasing revenue other than this?

Pete Talbot
Admin

You mean revenue to ship back to the CEO, COO and Board of Directors in Davenport, Iowa? Good question, Greg.

Greg Strandberg
Guest

How much is that, and how much is required to run the operations? The paper is heading for a buyout.

Pete Talbot
Admin

Total Executive Compensation: $5,853,523
Here’s the Q2 Earnings Report:
http://lee.net/financial/q-earnings-release/pdf_0f63dd56-f4b0-11e4-a36d-5f2df4b2c858.html
I don’t have exact figures on operating revenue v. costs for the IR; Lee doesn’t break it down that way, but you can extrapolate profit/loss (including executive compensation) from the Q2 statement.

James Conner
Guest

Arthur Fellig is dead. Unfortunately, his genre of photojournalism survived him. Here are a couple of examples of his work:

http://www.icp.org/exhibitions/weegee-murder-is-my-business

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/shocking-photos-famed-crime-photographer-weegee-gallery-1.1282477

Most crash pix are generic. They could have been taken anywhere.

Pete Talbot
Admin

If it bleeds it leads, Don; the mantra of television news for decades (sandwiched between 30 second TV spots). The print media are just following suit.

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