Accident photo graphic

... and purposefully so

A dramatic photograph of a Wallowa County teenager getting wheeled off in a stretcher after an automobile accident last week was called in to question by a couple of readers who suggested that the image was too graphic to run on the front page of a community newspaper.

The two readers who disagreed with our decision to run the photo objected on grounds that it was sensational and insensitive to friends and family of the victim, 17-year-old Brittni Ruark, who suffered a badly broken arm in the one-vehicle accident that occurred on Highway 82 about one mile east of Enterprise on Sunday, June 8.

Was running the photograph the right thing to do? That is the kind of question we are faced with in the news business more often than we'd like.

Certainly one could make a case either way. On the one hand running the photograph might further traumatize people close to the situation who were already upset about the accident. We would go to almost any length to make sure that didn't happen. On the other hand the photograph told an important story - that automobile crashes damage more than rubber, glass, and sheet metal. In too many cases they also injure and kill human beings. If we can help get that message through to drivers - especially teenage drivers, who are more prone to accidents than more experienced drivers - we are honored to do so. Could the same message have been delivered by showing a wrecked vehicle minus the people involved? Possibly.

We have seen too many teenagers injured and killed over the years to have much interest in sugar coating the danger ... or the consequences. We shudder every time we hear the sirens of emergency services vehicles in motion and pray that it is not one of our kids.

Fortunately none of the three teenagers involved in the June 8 car wreck was killed, probably because all three had the good sense to wear their seat belts. While Brittni Ruark's injuries were serious enough, with time she will recover. That is more than we can say for some less fortunate Wallowa County teenagers - Rohs Kuppinger, Rachel Gibbs, Tina Wagner, Kati Lewis, Mark Nichols, David Kessler, Robert Dixon, Terry Masterson and others, who lost their lives in automobile accidents, leaving untold heartache in their wake. R.S.

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