“I can’t believe I saw him die right in front of me” begins Boston Herald photographer John Wilcox’s story today about taking pictures of a man shooting up in the Boston Public Garden and then watching him keel over. It’s a stunning story – accompanied by an even more stunning online picture gallery. This is must-see journalism.
Given that this is the Herald, the inevitable comparisons will be made to last October, when the paper ran a graphic, color photo of Victoria Snelgrove’s bloody body outside Fenway Park. As I predicted, Herald publisher Pat Purcell later apologized.
Wilcox’s report, though, is nothing like that. The front-page photo, though dramatic, isn’t graphic. And though I don’t have today’s print edition and thus can’t see how it was played inside, every photo in the online gallery is newsworthy without being exploitative.
This was a self-inflicted public death, and it’s not a bad idea to show people as directly as possible what drugs can do. As Wilcox writes, “The men I photographed in the park yesterday didn’t look like back-alley junkies. They were clean and dressed like working people. One of them was wearing a roofing company shirt.” In other words, this could happen to someone you know.