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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

S-R editor agrees: We made a mistake, not printing photo of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton made history Tuesday evening when she became the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party. Our headline and story in Wednesday’s print editions made it clear what had happened, but the lack of any photo of her made some readers unhappy.

Reader Deborah Chan articulated thoughts that I’m sure are shared by many others:

“Last night was one of the happiest of my life: a woman, Hillary Clinton, is a major party’s nominee, something I’ve hoped all my life to see … and the S-R runs with it a picture not of her, but of Bill?? And there’s not a pic of her at all, only of delegates?

“This has to be the worst accompanying photo choice in S-R history and an insult to every woman in the region. And please note I’m a loyal subscriber who admires the photojournalism of the S-R.”

I heard from a couple of my colleagues this morning who felt similarly. Addy Hatch, our Senior Editor for Local News and my respected colleague for the past 12 years, weighed in as well at 5:30 a.m.:

“Just grabbed my paper – under very appropriate headline about Clinton making history as first female candidate we RUN A PHOTO OF HER HUSBAND.”

I should note that Hatch was not involved in the decision to use the photo of Bill Clinton instead of Hillary Clinton. I approved the photo plan Tuesday night before leaving the office for the day and I am solely responsible. Here’s the explanation I sent to Deborah Chan and others:

“I’ve heard from other readers this morning about our choice. We have tried to give Clinton and Trump equal treatment on our front page for each day of convention coverage. The morning after Trump was nominated, we did not use a photo of him on the front page. Instead, we planned to use a dominant photo of him the day after he gave his acceptance speech. That is the same treatment we intend to give to Clinton after her speech for Friday’s paper. We are frequently criticized by readers who think we favor one candidate over another, so we try hard to cover each candidate in the same fashion as others.

“I understand and agree that Clinton’s nomination as the first woman candidate is historic and I regret that we used a photo of Bill Clinton on the front page.”

A number of newspapers made the same kind of misjudgment, in my view, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. I’ve thought a lot about my decision this week. While I believe we have treated the coverage of both conventions in nearly identical ways, I let my concern for that treatment outweigh the import of the news.

Friday’s front page featured a prominent photo of Clinton accepting the nomination, as did many papers across the country. I have worked as a journalist through 11 presidential elections. Each one is historic, but the current one is unique, to say the least.

Gary Graham is editor of The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at garyg@spokesman.com or @glgraham via Twitter.

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