NYT Powerful Front Page: Was it Necessary?


Today’s front page of The New York Times (above) featured a photograph of a young woman showing a scar on her breast bearing a Star of David tattoo. The story reported on an apparent genetic mutation among Israeli women that may increase their risk of breast cancer (see the graph below). The photograph is of an unidentified 28-year-old woman who recently had a lump removed from her breast. As striking and compelling as the photograph is, one wonders if it was necessary for it to be so revealing. We can only speculate, but the rationale for running the photograph might have been this: We (The NYT), have a woman who is willing to be photographed and just so happens to have a Star of David tattoo in close proximity to the site of recent breast-related surgery. We can photograph her bearing her breast. It would make for a compelling shot. And although the shot reveals a portion of her nipple, we believe it to be shocking enough to get the attention of readers who might not ordinarily read such important public health reporting.


The story makes a solid case for how important is for women of Israeli descent to undertake screenings and other preventative measures; but was it necessary for the photograph to be that revealing? Like previous cases that used shocking photographs (see “Does it Shock or Inform?”), does the photograph in this case shock or inform? Or does it do both? Was it necessary to use the photograph? What are the ethics here?

Sources: The New York Times, NYTimes.com, Huffingtonpost.com

4 thoughts on “NYT Powerful Front Page: Was it Necessary?

  1. It wasn’t about shocking or informing… it was about selling newspapers in an age where the printed format is dying a slow death. A little titillation (in this case, literally) can’t help but move a few more copies and perhaps help the paper shed its stodgy image in the process.

    Given that the issue relates to women in Israel, I’m not sure how newsworthy it is in New York. If it was about life-saving, perhaps the article should have gone into the newspapers in Tel Aviv…

  2. Agreed. Great point, Brock. That’s something that I want to explore more fully with my students!

  3. Not sure why, but I find this less offensive than TIME’s front page photo of the breastfeeding mom with the title “Are you Mom enough?” (and I am pro-breastfeeding)

    I guess because I view this NYT cover as something that encourages women to get screened versus TIME’s cover that I believe was intentionally paired with a headline to stir controversy.

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