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UCSB rampage: Why run some victims' photos, but not all?

The three victims pictured were white; the three not pictured were Asian American

Coverage of the shooting rampage Friday night in Isla Vista, which killed six UCSB students along with the gunman, raised a question: Why were only three of the six victims pictured on the front page of Monday’s print edition?

The three pictured -- Veronika Weiss, Christopher Michaels-Martinez and Katherine Breann Cooper -- were white; the three not pictured -- George Chen, Cheng Yuan Hong and Weihan “David” Wang -- were Asian American. This added a racial element to the question.

“Racist LA Times publishes photos of white victims only,” one commenter charged on Facebook. Another reader asked on Twitter, “Why only put pictures of half the victims, on the front page, above the fold? And is it a coincidence that the 3 not shown were minorities (Asian males)?”

So, what happened? Why were only three victims’ photos published?

The answer is simple, and not at all sinister.

"Their families do not live here, and the school did not release any photos of them," said Calvin Hom, Times director of photography.

Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II, who was one of the reporters covering the story Saturday night, explained that the timing of the victims’ identifications was a factor, too.

“The three gunshot victims were identified by reporters on Saturday, so we had the most information on them first, giving us more time to get their photos in time for Monday's paper,” Lin said. “It may have been easier to identify them because at least two of their families were on scene Saturday.

“The names of the three stabbing victims, who happened to be Asian American, however, weren't released by officials until Sunday -- giving us less time to not only find family members but get a copy of their photos later that same night for Monday's paper.”

Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann said, "Here, we've had to rely on photos provided by families and friends; lacking those, we've had to be creative. In one case, I'm told, our photographer took an image of a picture that was included in a public memorial."

With social media images, The Times weighs whether, in individual cases, they may be published under so-called fair-use protections recognized in copyright law.

Since Monday’s paper went to press, The Times has obtained a photo of Wang, which was published on Tuesday’s front page, and of Chen. Chen’s photo is included on a page devoted to the victims, which also includes profiles of each of the slain students. Journalists are still trying to obtain Hong’s photo.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times


This post has been updated to clarify The Times' approach to fair use and photographs.

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