Washington Post, WSJ opted against Pulitzer-winning image

Massoud Hossaini's photos of the carnage following a suicide bombing at a mosque in Kabul were so powerful that The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal all published them on their front pages on December 7. But each ran different images from the same scene.

The Post chose a frame in which Tarana Akbari, 12, is holding her arms out, with the face of another survivor visible but most of a bloodied baby cropped out. The Journal chose a close-up image of the same young girl in green, in which most of the bodies are not visible. And the Times opted for a wide shot that showed her screaming, surrounded by bodies of the dead and injured.

The image that won the Pulitzer for breaking news photography was the one that ran in the Times. In an interview with the Post in December, the photo editors explained their reasoning, including their concerns about the graphic nature of the photo and which expression best told the story.

The New York Times published this photo of the aftermath of a suicide bombing, captured by Massoud Hossaini. The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal opted for other images of the same young girl. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP)

Hossaini was photographing a religious procession when he heard the blast and ran to the scene, arriving about 10 seconds later. The Times' Kerri MacDonald and David Furst wrote:

As he filed, he couldn’t stop crying. He sent most of the pictures without editing them. But he stopped when he saw the picture of the girl screaming, her hands open at her sides, her white pants splattered with blood, the sunlight on her face. He had noticed the woman in green — a color worn as a sign of remembrance — before the explosion, during the ceremony. He had planned to return to her after he took some pictures of the men.

“With the blood and tension, she didn’t know what she was doing,” he said.

Chris Hondros, who was killed as he documented the uprising in Libya last year, was a finalist in that category, along with his Getty Images colleagues John Moore and Peter Macdiarmid.

Photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed in the same attack, which occurred almost a year ago. A posthumous exhibit of his work opened last week in New York.

The exhibit includes a series of photos of sleeping soldiers. The Daily Beast's Blake Gopnik observes:

We’ve trained these boys to be killers, and other Hetherington photos show them looking the part. But in these portraits, Hetherington wanted to reveal how they must seem to their mothers: innocent, vulnerable, and, in their turned-off minds at least, somewhere very far from the war.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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