Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

A Thousand Words

Posted November 11, 2006

She beams in the photograph. It's the smile that friends say "could light up a room." She wears her hair back. Trendy beaded earrings hand down from her lobes. A halter dress flatters her young figure. Her husband has his hand draped casually over her shoulder. It looks like she is at a party, maybe a summer cocktail party. She is clearly having a good time. It is a moment in her life, a happy time. I'm sure she never imagined this would be how the country would get to know her after her death.

When people die one of the first things journalists do is ask for photographs. Without one, it's difficult for the viewer to relate to the victim. We are a visual society and we have a need to see people in order that we may understand them. The first photograph we get of someone is not always the most flattering. After we air it relatives or friends of the victim often call us an offer us a better one, one that captures their loved one more accurately. But there is always that one photograph that gets used again and again no matter how many are available to us. Most of the time it's because that's the picture we have pre-produced (put into the proper format for inserting into the piece). It's the easiest one to grab.

I wonder as I look at the picture of the Wake County woman murdered a week ago what she was thinking. I'm sure she wasn't thinking that in the event of my death this picture will be on national television. So in many ways she is forever frozen in the minds of our viewers as the beautiful, happy woman in a cocktail dress celebrating a happy occasion. And maybe, just maybe, that's the best way to remember her...

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.