Looking Back, Look Ahead

This was posted last year, but it seems like a good time to review the story behind John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the deaths at Kent State in 1970. This is one of the most comprehensive looks at his actions and reactions, worth the time here.

It’s alarming to read some of this now, that Filo and others were afraid that people would deny the killings of students by National Guard soldiers had happened, that it would be, to use a modern phrase, sold as fake news.

Filo continued to photograph other people’s reactions to the body, angering some students. They yelled: “Why are you doing this?” and “What kind of pig are you, taking pictures of this?” Filo says he yelled back: “No one is going to believe this happened!”

The note he received after winning the Pulitzer Prize is an testament to the role of journalism, that story telling is not a singular goal but a lifetime effort. That note, from fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Eddie Adams, said simply, “Dear John, You have my deepest congratulations. Hold your head up high. Now, let’s see what you can do tomorrow.”

(Thanks to Katy Culver at the University of Wisconsin for the lead.)