Main | Tuesday, December 04, 2012

On The Ethics Of Journalism

Yesterday the New York Post published a terrifying full-page front cover photo of a man who had just been pushed onto the subway tracks by an apparently mentally ill person. In the photo, the downtown-bound Q train is about twenty feet away from the victim, who was killed instantly a moment later. The Post has since come under widespread criticism for publishing the photo.

Forbes spoke to John Long of the National Press Photographers Association:
The question of whether the New York Post was right to publish Abbasi’s photo is, says Long, “another issue altogether.” Newspapers have an obligation to publish images, even horrifying ones, that might affect public debate over important issues. He cites photos of killed U.S. soldiers or drowned bodies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Those pictures ran because we as a society could learn from them and make decisions for society,” he says. A photo of a man about to be hit by a subway wouldn’t seem to rise to that level, he says. “If I was the night editor, I don’t think I’d run it.” However, he adds, “it’s a contract between a paper and its readers, and it’s different from paper to paper. The New York Post is not known for its subtlety in taste decisions.”
The New York Times today republished the photo, telling Gothamist afterwards that it would have been a disservice to their readers to question the ethics of the Post without providing the image itself.  Gothamist asks: "Is it right to use 'asking a question' about whether a news outlet should publish a controversial photograph as an opportunity to re-run that very picture (and reap its inevitable page views)? Or is this beneath the level of moral rectitude we expect Times' bloggers to embody?"

Your opinions, please.

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