Gruesome pictures on the front page of both the Guardian and its website of the bloody corpse of Gaddafi prompted nearly 60 complaints from readers and some members of staff, the paper's readers' editor Chris Elliott reports today.
In his Open Door column, Elliott appears to side with the complainants.
He writes: "At the time I agreed with the Guardian's decision to publish. On reflection – and having read the complaints – I feel less convinced about the way we used these photographs, although I still feel strongly that they are an important part of this story and should have been used.
"The scale of the photo on the newspaper front page of 21 October and prominent picture use on the website took us too close to appearing to revel in the killing rather than reporting it. And that is something that should feature in our deliberations the next time – and there will be a next time – such a situation arises."
Elliott quotes Ian Katz, the Guardian's deputy editor in charge of news, saying he believes it was "emphatically right" to use the pictures. For editors, he said, it was a case where the importance of the photo in news terms outweighed the repugnance factor. In addition, "these images [were] absolutely everywhere, and in particular on all rolling TV news and bulletins", so the idea of shielding people was unrealistic. "If I have one reservation," Katz said, "it is that the original image may have been too large, which perhaps added to the feeling some had that it was gratuitous."
- Meanwhile, Guardian media commentator Roy Greenslade also argues on his blog the Guardian was right to publish the Gaddafi pictures: "I remain convinced that it was a valid journalistic response to this most extraordinary of news stories to publish the picture and to publish it big on the front page. I take on board the worries about revelling in the death. But it would have been astonishing for newspapers to have failed to carry such a crucial news image."
- See also: The end of Gaddafi unites front pages of nationals but are the graphic pictures too gory for readers?