Editorial: Tough call on crash photo use

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It will not register in the Christmas-New Year road toll, but the life of a Dannevirke man lost in a road accident on Monday certainly registered as a Christmas tragedy with those of us who were working at Hawke's Bay Today that day.

It was after all, the day before Christmas, just hours before the start of the official road toll for the period.

Photographer Duncan Brown's photos on the desolate Takapau Plains were a grim reminder of the brutality of a highway head-on, only increased by truck vs car. But you, the reader, will never see the true horror of those photos.

As duty editor I made the decision to use a photo that showed the scene, the devastated vehicles and emergency services.

It was a tough decision. There was at least one good reason for publishing a photo depicting the other side of the scene. A photo that shows a man, who earlier that day had left home like he would have done thousands of times before, now under a white sheet. Nearby crash scene investigators were going about their business.

In the end, the good reason - to shock others into taking more care on the road - just wasn't reason enough.

Reporter Morgan Tait told me it was a gloomy atmosphere all round - weather, the scene, and the mood of those present.

I don't know the man. As I write this, I don't even know if he has a family. But one could only imagine that such horror would not only be impacting somewhere in the hours that followed, but that the impact on family and friends could only be exacerbated by the time of year.

Any righteousness on my part in the name of "educating" the public just didn't sit right.

When I told Duncan of my photo choice, he offered no argument. His only words were, "hope we don't have another one of those over this period".

It won't be in the Christmas-New Year road toll, but the death of a man in his 40s about 10am on December 24, 2012 was a Christmas tragedy.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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