I had hoped that while I was gone there would be some sort of cease-fire in the Russia-Ukraine war, but it just got worse. On Monday, when Russian troops began pulling out of the area around Kyiv, many graphic photographs emerged of dead civilians. They are important photographs, as they show the consequences of what to me seems like the evil decisions of a criminal mind. But do our print readers want to see them? Should they see them?
We talked about it as a group of editors. We wanted to convey the damage and despair. Finally, we decided on an image of a Bucha woman, on her knees, mourning the death of her husband. The secondary images included a dog walking through the ruins, and a third showed a street full of destroyed Russian tanks. None showed bodies, but I think they successfully conveyed the message of destruction.
It’s possible that we may show photos of dead bodies in future editions as the war rages. If we make that decision, it will be deliberate.
Newspapers are probably the oldest mass communications technology still in use today. But we have some new things going on.
Next week, our web editor, Amy Libby, is leading a breakout discussion at a conference looking at how newspapers can leverage artificial intelligence to do time-consuming jobs, such as transcribing interviews. Although we are hardly a leader in AI, we’ve been taking part in a national study organized by the Associated Press. I think there is some promise in this line, though I hope computers never replace journalists.
We’re also part of an initiative led by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University that provides us with advanced analytical tools that can help us more effectively target new customers and retain existing subscribers. From the newsroom perspective, it’s interesting because we can tell what stories subscribers are reading and what stories make visitors to our site more likely to subscribe. We’re just getting started with this.
Once again, we don’t want software to do our work for us. We’ll use our best news judgment as we do our jobs. But if we can use technology to do them better, that benefits both me and you.