The decision by “60 Minutes” to air controversial photos of public lynchings in Alabama was indeed a bold one. However, it’s backed by simple tenets of responsible journalism and the necessity of facts.
At the core of every story is simple truth. The facts. Unabashed, without favor and without reserve. The truth will indeed set one free, and will speak to a level of integrity no excuse can alter.
“60 Minutes” has, to me, always been the gold standard in broadcast journalistic truth. Going where others may fear to tread in search of the truth. Do they make mistakes? Certainly. Everyone does. But to err with truthful intent is just that, a mistake. Unlike dozens of other fraudulent news outlets and platforms in the media muddled 21st Century, “60 Minutes” has owned up to their few mistakes without excuse.
Their decision to air shockingly graphic photos of African-Americans being lynched was a risk. But when telling the truth, journalists have to take those risks. Sometimes, it’s necessary to shock a population that has been mentally numbed by what is now the real “fake news”.
Sometimes, and in my opinion, it’s not done nearly enough. The reality of life must be presented, warts and all. Sadly, it’s the only way to make some people understand what is going on around them, and what shaped the world we currently reside in.
On April 8th 2018, “60 Minutes” aired a piece about a new memorial in Alabama that recognizes the thousands of African-Americans that were lynched. Brutalized, assaulted, kidnapped, hung mostly from trees, often burned while dying. Quite often, these murders were points of celebrations in small towns and rural areas. It remains a ghastly and despicable stain on the American past. “CBS This Morning” presented a promotional look at the report a few days before it aired.
In the report, “60 Minutes” aired what can only be described as exceptionally and gruesome graphic pictures of various lynchings. Immediately, the network was taking heat for their decision. In recent years, stations have become sensitive to certain pictures being seen by their viewers. So on the CBS website in what’s called their “Overtime” follow-up segment, the “60 Minutes” Executive Producer was asked why in this case the airing of these pictures was so important.
The pictures had to be aired. There are no excuses.
Far too often, we find ourselves being “protected” from history. We find ourselves being handed what is, in essence, only a portion of the truth.
That’s wrong. There is nothing but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Of course, those words used when one swears on a Bible in court have become little more than lines from various television series and movies. But in real life, they carry with them an impact that is far too often overlooked or ignored.
“60 Minutes” did exactly what needed to be done. Within the context of a story about one of the more heinous times in American history, they brought the horror into our living rooms. They blunted any and all arguments and excuses from those who, to this day, minimize a stark evil that roamed a certain part of this country. They stood firm on journalistic integrity and the facts.
It’s my opinion that local and network broadcast news has gone too far in seeking to “protect” people from the facts of stories and events. That statement will be taken to the extreme by soe, who will turn it inside out and believe I’m advocating for bloody murder pictures and live executions. I’ve been here before, and have dealt with vile extremists before. Certainly, in the age of live television and social media platforms, there must be limitations.
In the context of a story, pictures such as these are critical to the entire story. For those concerned about what their children will see, then it’s up to the parents to take responsibility and talk about it. Responsible teachers, books and classes need to include such material in order to ensure the entire story is being told, not an edited and watered down version.
There are still those in pockets of America who see nothing wrong with what happened in Alabama and other areas. There are those thankfully small yet vocal groups that wouldn’t mind returning to this homicidal practice.
The truth is out there. It needs to be told in every aspect. All we have to do is seek it out.