The Washington Post has taken the unusual — some might say shocking — step in publishing photographs and videos from mass AR-15 semiautomatic rifle shootings in the U.S.
The photos, run as part of the Post’s “Terror on repeat” series, were accompanied by such warnings as, “The photos, videos and personal accounts below are extremely disturbing and may be too upsetting for some people.”
Sally Buzbee, executive editor of the Post, noted that, “because journalists generally do not have access to crime scenes and news organizations rarely if ever publish graphic content, most Americans have no way to understand the full scope of an AR-15’s destructive power or the extent of the trauma inflicted on victims, survivors and first responders when a shooter uses this weapon on people.’
The Post filed more than 30 public records requests in jurisdictions that had investigated AR-15 shootings since 2012. Most of these requests were denied, but the Post obtained documents in some places.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
“Before viewing the graphic content, our reporters and editors participated in training by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, learning best practices for viewing disturbing photos and discussing how publishing them could affect readers,” Buzbee wrote.
Buzbee added, “We realize this story will be disturbing to readers, but we believe that publishing these images gives the public a new vantage point into the pattern of AR-15 mass killings in the United States.”
The photos showed blood and even body bags. But the “only photograph in this story showing bodies is one taken immediately after the 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas,” Buzbee continued. “We felt the scene captured in this photo — a field strewn with the dead and wounded beneath the Las Vegas skyline — illustrates why witnesses often liken AR-15 shootings to American war zones”.