The photo showed a great deal of blood on the car's platform and in the snow, and outrage erupted almost immediately in the paper's comments.
"What could possibly justify publishing that photo?" posted one commenter. "What a sensationalistic piece of trash. You should be ashamed."[jump]
Murphy was arrested on suspicion of distributing child pornography last Thursday. After about four hours in Hennepin County jail, he was released around 7:15 p.m. After a final text to his mother to say he had no idea what the charges were about, Murphy vanished. His family in Iowa told local media that the 20-year-old was depressed and possibly suicidal.
Then, yesterday morning, news came that a body had been discovered near TCF Bank Stadium in a boxcar on a nearby railway. It was Murphy's.
Minnesota Daily editor-in-chief Devin Henry sent a reporter and photographer to the scene. The body had been removed, but the area was not cleaned or cordoned off. Managing editor Ian Larson snapped photos along with other members of local media.
When the story was first published yesterday evening, the photo was used as the main image on the paper's homepage.The content of the photo is summed up in a description the paper included in the article:
Several hours after the body's discovery, frozen, black blood coated the platform at the end of the boxcar, and was spattered in the snow surrounding it. Blood stains reached as high as several feet on the wall of the car, and were smeared on a ladder rung leading into it. A single handprint was visible in the blood-stained compartment.
Henry says the image was left on the site's main page for only a short time before he decided to move it after the article jump. Henry also says he consulted with two of the paper's faculty advisers about the photo soon after the article went up. He says at the time he and his editors were comfortable with the decision to run it.
"While it was a pretty graphic photo it definitely added something to the story," says Henry. "It was not something pleasant to look at but it was an expression of the truth."
Soon after, the story's comment section exploded in outrage.
"My son is sobbing now, as he was friends with this kid, and there is no way in hell I will show him this article," wrote a commenter. "This is pure trash."
Henry says he followed the comments all evening, and that at about 1:30 a.m. he got a text from Larson.
"He texted me and said, 'Are you still awake?,'" says Henry. "I said, 'Yeah, what are you thinking?' He called me and we talked for 10 or 15 minutes."
After the conversation, they decided to yank the photo.
"We decided that there was a potential for it to cause harm to the family if they were to see this," he says.
Debate has raged on in the comments even afterward, with some saying the description of the scene should be removed as well, though Henry says he has no plans to. He posted a response to the outrage on the website this afternoon.
"This graphic image we published had too much potential to cause unnecessary grief," it reads. "This sad event was an instance where restraint was a more appropriate path to take."