Journalists, like all humans, always have a choice. Judging from his letter in the Winter 2000 issue of PhotoMedia regarding the Columbine incident, Denver photojournalist Barry Staver, invoking personal reasons, deserted his profession. Instead of taking advantage of his privileged involvement with the story and approaching it in what could have been an original and poignant account, he chose to stand back and blame colleagues. It's particularly unfortunate that he chose to criticize those that photographically covered the story the best: The Denver Rocky Mountain News and Time magazine.
The Columbine incident in all its horror is a worldwide story and in the American collective consciousness will forever remain a landmark tragic event. The intelligent debate would steer us towards comments on gun control, after-school child supervision and better monitoring of students in school. If "ghoulish" coverage can help lead to that debate, then let it be ghoulish.
Random killing of fifteen adolescents and a teacher is ghoulish. So is African famine, the AIDS plague, Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Vietnam, Panama, Kosovo, and now Elian. Being a journalist requires choosing to report the truth as perceived by the individual. Barry Staver made that career choice long ago, but dropped the ball at Columbine.
It is a known fact in the photo community that the Denver Post coverage was also a victim of Columbine. This does not justify Staver's attack on the Pulitzer-winning photo team of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, whose brilliant photography came the closest to revealing the truth and reality of the event. Nor does it justify his attack on Time magazine, which showed true dedication to the story by giving it another cover in December with in-depth reporting and photo essays.
Columbine is bound to remain an important story for photographers, journalists and all citizens. I hope that one day we may see, through his photography rather than a bitter diatribe, Staver's privileged insider's vision of that tragedy.
Executive Editor Corbis Sygma