“Tabloid style”

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Bereaved friend upset by latest Herald cover

April 30, 2011 - The best friend of the late Triffie Wadman is shocked and angry about the latest cover of The Newfoundland Herald.

Wadman was shot and killed on October 1, 2011. Trevor Pardy, an ex-boyfriend, has been charged with her murder.

April 30 is Triffie’s birthday. She would have turned 31 today.

Erin Careen grew up with Triffie in their hometown of Placentia. “We were best friends,” Careen said in an interview. “We grew up together. We’ve known each other all our lives. She was my roommate up until July of last year. The reason why she moved out was to move in with him (Pardy).”

Careen said her relationship with Triffie “got a little strained” when Pardy entered the picture. She says she and others tried to warn Triffie that she was in danger – though no one anticipated this outcome. 

“Yes, there was a lot of guilt, feeling that I knew this was coming and should have tried harder to stop it,” she said. “Everybody who was close to Triffie has the same kind of grief, wishing that we could have done more.”

Careen works as a cashier at Walmart. She was not expecting and was unprepared to see her best friend on the cover of The Herald when she went to work last week.

“I went to my cash and the first thing I saw was Triffie’s picture on the front page. And the front page looks like a most wanted poster. It’s like the front page of the National Enquirer.”

Careen said she was “shocked and upset.”

“I had to stop work for a while ... I started to cry and everything. I actually had to leave my cash and get somebody else to take over. When I came back – and I’m very thankful for this – they had removed The Heralds from my cash, and those around me, so that I could continue on for the rest of my shift and not have to look at it.”

Careen said neither she nor Wadman’s family had any advance notice that Triffie’s photo would appear on the cover.

“They (The Herald) had to know there was going to be a reaction. Can you imagine her father, mother or sister, or even her daughter, going through a grocery store lineup, and seeing their mother, daughter or sister on the cover, and not knowing it was coming out? It’s still very fresh and very new. It may have been seven months ago, but for anybody who is close to the victims, it’s like it happened yesterday.”

Careen has no real problem with the content inside the magazine. It’s a series of brief articles, spanning six pages, that highlight in varying detail more than a dozen murders and missing persons cases. Interviews were conducted for three of the 13 stories in the spread – the rest appear to be rewritten from media reports. The American Typewriter font used for the headlines looks a little sensational, like a local version of their own pulpy Crime Flashback column, but it’s not over the top.

So what is so offensive about the cover?

“It’s tabloid style,” Careen said. “It looks like the cover of a most wanted magazine. Except, instead of having the picture of the people who committed these crimes, they have the victims … I go to grievance counseling and still try to deal with the fact that this happened. And then to see this on the cover of a local magazine.”

Careen does have a point. The stories inside the magazine, by Pam Pardy-Ghent, are not insensitive or exploitative. However, the cover is something else. It features a collage of colour photos of seven murder victims, including Wadman. Criminal charges have been laid in six of these cases, which are still before the courts. Clearly, those left behind to grieve these murders – which are all recent, the oldest dating to 2007 – are still hurting and looking for closure.

Beneath The Herald banner, the cover type reads: NEWFOUNDLAND’S MOST NOTORIOUS CRIMES. The word CRIMES is large (2” deep and 7” wide), blood red and rendered in a typeface similar to what might be used in the title for a slasher film. If they were trying to create an effect that incites shock and fear in the viewer, they succeeded.

Only problem is, those are local people on that cover. Murder victims, with grieving families and criminal trials pending. Hundreds of people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, close friends – are directly affected by these terrible stories, and many are going to react much the way Erin Careen did … with outrage and tears.

Having worked in the media – and even as a managing editor at The Herald – I have to consider this from their perspective as well. In this case, they had a powerful, if sensational, story that could get people talking around the water cooler. They needed an eye-catching cover to promote that story, and drive copy sales. And research shows that cover presentation is key to those sales.

I’m with them up to that point. But I do think a cover could have been designed that honoured the victims, without exploiting them to incite fear and anxiety in the supermarket line-up.

To put it another way, let’s imagine that the cover depicted victims of Cougar flight 491. Imagine the same photos – including a victim in a wedding dress – and type treatment, except the words are now “17 killed in CRASH.”

Yes, there would be an uproar. Such a cover would be unacceptable, and for good reason.

Why should this be different?

I invited Mark Dwyer, editor of The Herald, to respond to Erin’s complaint. If and when he does, I will file an update.

The cover in question is reproduced above. What do you think of it? I invite your comments.

 

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  • Nicole
    May 14, 2012 - 13:27

    I'm sure The Herlad did not mean to offend anyone but let's get real, this is the media. Covers like this attract your attention and draw readers in. I think it is understandable for what they did and why. Case in point, we are talking about it now aren't we? Any media source on the main land or USA can't not design their front pages or magazine covers based on who they are afraid of hurting. The Herald seems to have gotten the stories and facts correct so I don't see the issue. It's unfortunate for those involved and the victims themselves but with such public court cases and crimes the media is bound to do articles and such on them and family and friends of those should be prepared. Sorry for those hurting but the media has a job to do just like you. You cannot expect that CBC or NTV News to not report on such topics so you should expect to see them on the news stands. All that being said.... I personally do not like the way they did the cover and think its too busy with all the words and photos... But whatever sells!

  • Joanne
    May 01, 2012 - 10:44

    The media can only survive on sensationalism these days. With bloggers, facebookers and twitter peeps being better investigative reporters, the media has no other choice to compete. It does not matter if it hurts someone or if it is right. Take the Febreeze Kid. The media took the story and ran with it, never telling both sides to the story but turning it into a crazy tale that all Newfoundlanders stunk like fish and the only way to get of the smell was Febreeze. I often wondered if the company upon hearing this gave the media incentives everytime some douche used the word Febreeze in a story. There are very few happy stories these days. It's death, murder, injustice, mayhem. Who really wants to see cheery happy people living a wonderful life on our little island? Blood, guts and a sex scandal. It sells. Who cares about who gets hurt in the process?

  • Erin Careen
    April 30, 2012 - 13:28

    Thanks so much Geoff!! Working with you on this article this past week was a pleasure! You done a fantastic job, and I appricate all your hard work! Thank-you! Erin