Photo editing and domestic violence

Last week, the bodies of Christina Sargent, 36, her son, Duwayne Coke, 10, and her daughter, Destiny Sargent, 8, were found strangled to death at their mobile home in Garland, Maine.

The suspect, who later confessed to the killing, was Keith Coleman 27.

Maine is no stranger to domestic violence. So much so that we at the BDN strive to find ways to raise awareness about it and have made it a goal to eliminate it from our state. It’s a goal that we may never achieve, but we all work very hard to find ways of telling stories that will bring us closer and closer to that goal.

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BDN photographer Linda Coan O’Kresik went to the Penobscot Judicial Center for Coleman’s arraignment. One of O’Kresik’s images shows the suspect in his orange jump suit, staring directly back at the camera. The stare is blank, his eyes almost lifeless. It was a photo that would engage readers directly and my goal, drive this crime and the issues surrounding domestic violence home.


During our p.m. print meeting we mulled over the photo and how the front page would look. We also had school photos of Coke and Sargent, by contrast photos showing childhood innocence.

All of this content was worthy of A1, but was leading with the suspect in his orange jump suit the right way to go? At the moment he and his day in court was the focus of the news day.

At first, and before much thought, we were going to lead with Coleman. But what should we do with the photos of the children? We threw around the idea of not having Coleman on the same page and putting either his photo or the kids photos inside. The problem was that all the photos were very impactful in their own right and their inclusion was necessary to drive the story home.

We decided to talk to Erin Rhoda, our Maine Focus editor at the BDN, and after some discussion we came to this conclusion.

When covering these domestic violence stories the emphasis should be on the victims and the layout should reflect that. If our goal is to end this, glorifying the arraignment of a lead suspect is skewing the focus to become a story of criminals, lawyers and the court system. Whereas leading with the kids, keeps the issue of domestic violence at the forefront and in our reader’s minds.

The hope? Our community will say “no more” and more and more Mainers will try to find their own way of reaching the goal of ending this violence in our state.

In 2014 so far there have been 19 homicides in Maine, 12 of them have been deemed the result of domestic violence.



One thought on “Photo editing and domestic violence”

  1. It is really a flip of the coin. Posting the kids pictures may be the way to go, BUT how does that impact the suspect’s trial?

    Posting the suspect’s picture may gain more “hits” on your website, BUT how does his front-page notoriety effect the family of victims.

    In this case I believe the paper did the best it could.

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