A man falling to his death from the World Trade Center.
A starving child crawling to a feeding station as a vulture circles overhead.
A weather-battered woman pleading for help as she digs through rubble, searching for her infant after an F-5 tornado leveled her hometown.
Photographers have a big decision to make each time they go to an assignment—to shoot or not to shoot. They must make these decisions while under deadline pressure and in the split second that news happens.
Many times, the images captured become our only documentation of history. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They help us remember.
Once a photo is submitted, it is up to the editor to determine how or if it should be delivered to the audience.
Medias’ role in informing the public of newsworthy issues through photography, without causing unnecessary harm, is at the heart of this week’s ethics question for my media law and ethics class.
Students were asked specifically to consider a photo that ran on the front page of a December issue of the New York Post.
The photo was of 58-year-old Ki Suk Han, who was attempting to avoid an oncoming train after being pushed onto the subway track. A freelance photographer, who happened to be on the platform at the time, shot the photo.
The Post was criticized for publishing the photo, which depicted the last seconds of the man’s life.
The photographer also has spoken out about the issue, saying he should not be criticized because he was attempting to use his camera’s flash to alert the train driver to stop.
I asked students to take a stance on the question:
“Should newspapers have run the photo of the man falling onto the subway rails?”
The Post‘s decision to run the photo is representative of those publication editors make regularly as they weigh their duty to inform the public with the possibility of causing harm.
I’d love for you to weigh in on the issue.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
Should newspapers run photos of the last minutes or seconds of people’s lives? How should editors make decisions regarding running potentially traumatic photos?