Fallout short report

Fallout by Lesley M.M. Blume

Fallout details journalist John Hersey’s efforts to create a story that would come to shock the American public into empathy. He sought to cover the catastrophic tragedy that was the bombing of Hiroshima. Other reporters focused on the carnage of the city but often ignored the human lives permanently changed or ended by the blast. The impersonal approach taken until then was not working to inspire empathy or reflection from the majority of Americans. Hersey aimed to wake postwar Americans from the victorious complacency they’d been privileged to have post-war.

The chapter “Some Events at Hiroshima” briefly details the cover of the New Yorker that would hold Hersey’s influential story. The cover, created by Charles E. Martin, depicted a peaceful scene at a park of Americans at leisure. The editors kept the cover despite the initial unfit nature of the scene with the grotesque story within. However, according to Blume, the scene would serve as a reflection on the American public’s comfortable ignorant state of the horrifying acts done on their behalf. It would create an uncomfortable message so that readers may be forced to confront their own position in comparison to those in Hiroshima.

On the other hand, however, editors worried about the readers unwittingly picking up the story and not expecting a revolting story. While these criticisms do hold weight for the sake of publishing, the cover can still be considered a genius decision. It brings in another side of the story without the need for words, greatly enhancing the original text. It is much like adding a mirror to force the intended audience to reflect harder on the story. It is a great example of a cover serving an intention, even through unconventional means.

The method of pairing a contrasting cover with a story is one not observed often, even today. This provides another angle of presenting stories, even if it isn’t entirely friendly to the reader. It is sometimes necessary to call out the reader in subtle ways on topics that encompass widespread issues. It can even be interpreted as visual satire to draw attention. It may be a tool that can benefit current publications with hopes that it can help issues resonate better with today’s readers.

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