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Public editor: Notes on gender and photo selection

Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada (29) reacts after scoring on U.S. goalkeeper Jessie Vetter (31) of the women’s gold medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Here's a little quiz.

An article on four financial advisers asks their advice about putting together a lasting RRSP strategy. Two of them are described as married with children. The other two have no reference to marital status or children.

Can you guess the gender of the first two? You are correct if you said both are women.

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If you are going to describe someone's physical appearance, marital status etc., ask yourself first: Would I do this for a man or, in the case of diversity, would I do this for a different ethnicity or religion?

In this case above, my answer would be no.

To catch up on a few other issues this week:

I have been asked why there was a beautiful wrap cover of the winning Olympic men's hockey team in Monday's Globe but not the same treatment of the victorious women's team last Friday. The answer is that Monday's paper covered the conclusion to the Games. There was a large (half of the front page) photograph of the winning women last Friday.

I'm still receiving letters about the photo of a man on fire from last week. Here's a great one from one reader:

"I was very surprised to read about the criticism levelled at The Globe and Mail for publishing the front-page picture on Feb 19th.

"No other picture of the situation in Kiev 's Independence Square published by The Globe before or since had the profound effect on me that picture did. Not even the picture of the activists taking shelter behind the barricades, so reminiscent of the iconic images from the two world wars, made me sit up and take notice in the way the image of the man in flames did.

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"Because, on 9/11, I had the TV on and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center live, that is not the still image I remember from that day. The newspaper image that remains with me is the picture of the man in his business suit, covered in that stifling ash, walking up the street stunned and stricken, and looking for a way to get home.

"The picture of the dead giraffe was truly horrific. But surely the story was not only that the animal had been been deemed dispensable, shameful in itself, but that this horror was conducted in front of visiting children, rather than quietly at night. But then there would have been no picture and no public awareness.

"Sadly, I am beginning to feel that Canadians have become too comfortable and insulated to the realities of life lived by other inhabitants of our world.

"In order for Canadians to be truly citizens of the world with a moral authority to take a stand on international atrocities, we have to see and contemplate the difficult images and allow our outrage to be real and authentic."

Well said.

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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