Images of real, violent death are now routine on screens big and small, and nobody knows what they’re doing to us

I was pretty young, but I remember with fascination and horror the stills from the Zapruder film of the John Kennedy assassination. Frame by frame, Life Magazine, which in those days defined news photography, in early 1964 ran the grainy color 8mm images of the murder—Kennedy grabbing his throat as the first bullet hit him, […]

Murder of journalists puts news media in a quandary

The murders of the U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by their Islamist captors were trivial horrors in the spiraling calamity that has engulfed Syria and Iraq. Still, to me they were uniquely painful for reasons unrelated to the region’s incomparably greater misfortunes: They were the needless deaths of brave and committed professionals, they pointed […]

Killing as a cinematic art form

The media seem to move on from mass killings more quickly nowadays than they used to, and within three days of the Aurora, Colo., cinema massacre the killer’s first appearance in court didn’t make the front of The New York Times. Denying him notoriety was fine with me, but once the stories of heroism and […]