Don Wycliff of the Chicago Tribune probably didn’t intend to write an argument pro-life activists can use to justify standing along the highways and streets of our nation, holding large graphic signs of babies killed in abortion, but on January 1 he wrote just such a defense.
Trib‘s Wycliff Defends Graphic Pictures
Wycliff said in his column on the Iranian earthquake that there are basically two ways to illustrate a disaster that big: one is to capture a panorama of the disaster and one is to focus on one house, one family or one person, and portray the tragedy of all by showing the devastation of the one. The Tribune adopted the latter approach, electing to display on the front page a photo of a man and a woman, each cradling the body of a small child as they walked amid the debris. The five-column photo ran beneath the headline, “Deadly quake hits Iran, at least 5,000 killed.”
Wycliff explains: “It was the sort of photo the paper rarely uses because of the editors’ sensitivity about intruding upon the privacy of the dead and their families on one hand, and about offending the humane sensibilities of their readers on the other.”
Wycliff says that simply giving a large number can be more numbing than meaningful, and that nothing makes it meaningful like the image of a real victim, “a victim like one of those parents whose child has just been snatched away forever in a few seconds of violent trembling.”
Wycliff then admits that none of this cuts any ice with readers who rush to their telephones and complain of “an outrageous imposition on their peace and tranquility . . . by people who had no right to intrude.”
Sound familiar? When we pro-life activists are out on the streets simply with pictures of dead children, phones ring off the hook at nearby police stations and at newspaper offices.
“One man left a phone message,” Wycliff continues, ” in which he deplored that he had to ‘hide’ the newspaper from his children, lest they be exposed to the Bam photo. Another man said the photo was ‘just a bit much to take’ first thing in the morning.”
Wycliff says he regrets that people were offended, but that the fault lies with this messy world we inhabit and not with the newspaper. Wycliff continues:
We could, of course, conceal all the mean, messy, tragic and unhappy aspects of our existence from you, but then we would be something other than a newspaper. . . . We could print only bright, sunny ‘news’ on Page 1 and squeeze all the bad stuff into briefs on the last page of the classifieds, but we don’t think that’s what you want from us.
So we are stuck with editing the Tribune for adults, and asking you to take occasions like last Saturday as ‘teachable moments’ times when you can tell your children that bad things sometimes happen to people for no apparent reason, but they have the power to make things a little less bad — maybe by sending a donation to a relief agency, or, if it’s still allowed, just saying a prayer.
That is essentially Wycliff’s apology for his paper showing two dead children. And we believe it speaks to our efforts to wake up the public to the horror of abortion when we show abortion to the man on the street. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Wycliff’s argument were used in the abortion debate, and newspapers, magazines and television decided to show the mean, messy, tragic aspects of what we are doing to our own children four thousand plus times each and every day in America.
Maybe someday they will. But until then, we must. Join our Face the Truth tours in 2004. Thanks Don, we needed that.
Tough Mission for Pro-Life Dems
Our hat is off to writer Mary Meehan for taking on a tough assignment. It’s a lengthy two-part article starting in a recent issue of the Human Life Review on Democrats for Life. She mentions greats such as Mike Schwartz, Carol Crossed, Carol Wold and Kristen Day, who are fighting a steep uphill battle. But battle they do.
Meehan tells the story well, that at present Democrats can count on only four pro-life votes in the Senate and possibly thirty in the House, a far cry from the late 1970s when the Senate could count on twenty pro-life Democrats and the House nearly a hundred.
Pro-abort Democrats who hurt the life cause early on were presidential hopeful George McGovern, President Jimmy Carter, those in Congress like Ted Kennedy and dozens of Catholic liberals, including Jesuit Fr. Robert Drinan.
The Democratic National Platform supported legal abortion since 1980 and firmed it up in 1984, calling Roe the “law of the land” and making abortion a “fundamental right.” Still the pro-life Democrats have a mission and are hard at it. Meehan’s story is worth the read.