Thursday, July 29, 2010

My enthusiastic embrace of Twitter has kept me from blogging. But this time, I needed way more than 140 characters to promote one of the most important pieces of journalism I've seen in years.

Before you click on the link below, you should know that the cover image of the latest Time magazine (or perhaps the next issue) is disturbing. It's a close up the face of an 18-year-old Afghan girl who has had her nose and ears cut off by the Taliban because she fled her abusive in-laws.

The bulk of the email is Time managing editor Richard Stengel explaining the magazine's decision to publish the photo. I'll excerpt briefly what he says:

Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival. (See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)

I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME. First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha's safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. ...
I'm acutely aware that this image will be seen by children, who will undoubtedly find it distressing. We have consulted with a number of child psychologists about its potential impact. ... I showed it to my two young sons, 9 and 12, who both immediately felt sorry for Aisha and asked why anyone would have done such harm to her. I apologize to readers who find the image too strong, and I invite you to comment on the image's impact. (Comment on this cover.)

But bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them. In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening — and what can happen — in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it.

I applaud Time magazine for this. This is the best of what journalism should be doing every day. It's time we stopped using our assumptions and bias-selected media sources to dictate our arguments for our positions. We're not going to solve anything until we deal in facts.

Read more here.

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