Ethical Situations: Run Controversial Photo?
I think the next panelist may have read my post from Thursday night! His question is related to what I was hoping would be discussed: the ethics behind the decision to publish a controversial photograph. The situation presented involved an incredibly dramatic photograph of a mother who had just arrived home to discover that her child had died in a fire. The panelist asked the audience whether the picture should be published and whether posting the picture on the Web changes the ethics behind the decision.
The first audience member questioned said that this particular photograph seems like a huge invasion of privacy. To her, the important question is whether showing the mother at the moment she finds out her child dies is really necessary. She suggested that the photo should only be run if it’s the only way to convey the truth of what happened.
Another audience member suggested that the intrusion of privacy idea is misguided in this case. He argued that as journalists, we are charged to convey to people the sense of loss that occurred, which photographs can do much better than text.
I would have to agree with the first audience member. Personally, I’m not convinced that running this photograph is at all necessary for capturing what happened. A well-written piece could tell the story effectively while still protecting the mother’s privacy.
I’m disappointed that the audience discussion never addressed the second part of the question, whether posting the picture to the Web is any different than running it in traditional media. Hopefully the panelist will discuss this further when he reveals what decision his organization made.