Driving into Atlantic City last week I stopped at the first traffic light off the expressway. Two police cars zoomed by me toward Atlantic Ave. A block later two more cars flew by heading in the same direction. As a newsman, this is something that gets the adrenaline pumping and curiosity mounting. Something was going on.
I drove around the block, grabbed a somewhat legal parking spot, and jogged in the direction of the police cars. A message from our newsroom said there is a report of a man with a gun. As I ran up to the police barricade, I saw enough law enforcement vehicles to rival a scene from Dog Day Afternoon. And, sadly, lying in the middle of the street covered by a sheet was what must have been the man with the gun. I write about this to bring some clarity to how The Press of Atlantic City covers these scenes, at least visually. Several people looked at me in disgust, assuming that I was taking photographs of the body lying in the street to publish in the newspaper. But anyone who is a regular reader of The Press knows that we do not publish photographs of local fatalities. But we do publish photographs of breaking news that ends in the death of someone, puts hundreds of people in danger of also becoming victims, and shuts down traffic in one of the busiest areas in the largest city in southern New Jersey. My job was to capture the news visually in a way that did not offend. If you look at the photos I made, you won’t see a body in the street but you will see the police presence and the absence of life on what is normally a busy shopping area. News photographers are often mistakenly viewed as vultures lusting for the most sensational images. I consider myself a newsman who tells stories visually in the most tactful and sensitive manner that the situation will allow. Important news is not always good news. People die, fires burn down the homes of families, and accidents take lives. Photographs give a better understanding of what happened.