This note caught my attention this morning. It was stripped across the very top of page one of the Virginian-Pilot, my former paper. We still get it here at the Apple household every day.
I’ve cut-and-pasted it into one column so you can read it better:
Denis Finley — the Pilot‘s editor — knows his way around pictures, of course. He’s one of the few editors-in-chief I know of working today that came up through the photo department.
And right away, readers can see the reason for the disclaimer. This incredibly powerful picture of a gravely injured soldier in Kandahar fills nearly the entire top half of the page.
Click for a much larger view. If you can.
Pinned to his blankets are the medals he earned.
That picture — by Pilot staffer Ross Taylor – is of 19-year-old Eddie Ward. He was nine years old when the war in Afghanistan started, writes the Pilot‘s Corinne Reilly.
Eddie was caught in an IED explosion. He lost most of his right leg and his left wasn’t in real good shape, either.
A doctor cuts the tourniquet off the leg thatâ€™s still intact and runs his finger down the sole of the pale foot. â€œCan you feel this?â€
A few minutes later the soldier is in the operating room. Heâ€™s writhing now more than shaking. Through the moans, heâ€™s mumbling three words over and over.
â€œThis is bad. This is bad. This is bad.â€
He keeps lifting his head, trying to get a look.
On the end of the bed, the last right boot he ever put on is lying at an angle thatâ€™s all wrong, a sweaty foot still inside. The calf above it is a shredded mess of uniform, flesh, dirt and grass. Nothing about it looks real.
Above that there is no discernible knee, just a thin stretch of filthy skin barely hanging onto whatâ€™s left of a thigh, which looks a lot like the mangled calf, except for one thing: Among the blood and mud, there is a little white inchworm, scrunching and straightening, slowly making its way across a bit of dying muscle.
Somehow it survived an explosion the soldier may not.
Here’s the way the Pilot played the story on A1 today. Note the disclaimer across the top. Note the fabulously huge play of that incredible photo. Note the powerful headline.
No one does this kind of stuff better than the Virginian-Pilot.
This is the first of a five-part series. The Pilot kicked off a huge online presence for the series and will add to it as the week goes along. Former print designer and current online producer David Putney writes on his Facebook page:
Because we could give people a choice to look at the photos online, we were able to publish pics of a type rarely seen.
I did the online portion. It’s the best story I’ve ever worked on, a credit to my colleagues’ skill.
And, as Denis told us in that disclaimer — be warned. This is powerful stuff. It’s a story that needs telling. But the descriptions and photos might be a bit much at times.
In addition, our local NPR station interviewed Corinne and Ross about the work they did on this story. You can listen to that interview here.
Just last week, I was telling you about a multi-part series in the Virginian-Pilot about baseball games held on the Naval base between players recruited from the major leagues. I loved that series by Rich Radford. Find all that here.