The calls were evenly split – one for, one against.
One vote adoration. One vote repulsion.
Both were about the photograph on the front page of Thursday’s newspaper.
We had covered a downtown contest for the television show MythBusters and paired two images from the event with Halloween tips for both parents of trick-or-treaters and motorists.
The photo was a close-up of a 7-year-old girl made up to be a zombie. Not much different from the Sprint commercial that plays over and over on television.
I must admit that I don’t understand the current cultural fascination with zombies (or witches or vampires). Or the trend among young people to spend so much money on costumes and decorations for Halloween.
This, of course, leaves me ill-prepared to talk about the latest television show or several movie phenomena.
But I am prepared to talk about the power of a still image in the newspaper or moving ones on our Web site.
People in today’s world are exposed to more images every day than most of the history of mankind saw, American sociologist Todd Gitlin explained in 2006.
From cave drawings to paintings for the rich to pieces in museums to still photographs, people saw few images in their lifetime.
And those images – whether a haunting or beautiful painting or a still image capturing a historical moment – stay with us.
Close your eyes and recall the Mona Lisa or President Kennedy’s son saluting his father’s coffin 50 years ago. Those images – like countless others – are cemented in your mind.
But the speed and volume with which images pass your eyes today is blinding. Nearly everyone carries a cellphone camera, and no one seems afraid to use it. Images flash by at the speed of light on television, on Web sites and in many new forms of social media.
That is probably why that still image in the newspaper that is not gone in a flash but stares out at you from the rack or from your table – is as powerful as ever.
And we continue to take seriously the choice of images for the front page and the other pages, too.
Each day is a different set of circumstances to make the decision from. Some days the images capture what the people of Augusta in 2013 are doing on a particular day. Some days the images reflect the local or national news events.
We can’t escape that we live in a visual world. And the two callers each had a visceral reaction to Thursday’s image.
One was joy. Loved the picture. Loved the online slideshow. Loved the prominence that we gave to Halloween and zombies.
One was anger. The picture was hideous. Outraged that it was printed. She expects better judgment from her newspaper.
And I love both of their passions for the newspaper.
We hope to delight. We are sorry to disappoint. We intend always to inform.