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LA Times Wins with “A Boy’s Struggles”

April 9th, 2010

LATIMES_boystruggleThere are a lot of stories I’d like to re-post from the World Press Photo Awards, Pictures of the Year International, and the Best of Photography Awards, but I’ll let you explore those sites on your own.

What I must share is this story, by the Los Angeles Times, which won the 2nd Place for Feature Audio Slide Show. “A Boy’s Struggles” is about a young boy who was abused by a teacher when the L.A. Unified School District failed him. They didn’t follow up on complaints once police and prosecutors dropped criminal actions.

Having documented these kinds of stories before, and understanding a lot about trauma and victimization, I am impressed that not only did the LA Times commit the time and resources to this piece, but they did it very well. Liz O. Baylen, who did the photography and audio, made some compelling images even with the restrictions on revealing the subject’s identity. He is still a minor. As a journalist, this is an ethical and legal dilemma–working with minors–especially if they’re runaways, in and out of institutional care, or otherwise complicated. In this case, the journalists were able to work with a loving family. And, I’m sure, worked until the end not knowing for sure if it would be ok to publish.

However, the boy was given a voice–as was his mother–and a chance to take ownership of what happened to him. One of the final quotes is compelling and revealing; he knows this will be with him for the rest of his life, but what he does with it is up to him. From what I’ve seen in my work, this is one of the biggest and most important steps toward healing. Having a non-judgmental community there as support will be be just as important.

The judges at Best of Photography thought there was too much text in the beginning. I agree, but you should stay with it. It’s a strong story.

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