Sunday, January 30, 2011

Case Study 4

This issue is among the most difficult issues that editors deal with on a day-to-day basis. These types of decisions are the kinds I loathe because there is truly no right or wrong answer, as I learned from the times I’ve flip-flopped on so many issues like these when I faced them in Dr. Lewis’ ethics class. But most of all, I’ll never forget what Professor Foley said when he reflected on mornings he would wake up sick to his stomach not knowing if he made the right call on a particular issue. You have to take these decisions to heart, because so many more people are affected than you’ll ever know. With that said, I would publish this image for all the reasons below.  
  • Would you publish if the bodies were of American soldiers, rather than civilian workers?
    • I would, but I would not identify the soldiers (if they could be identified) for respect of the families of the soldiers.
  • If the charred bodies could be recognized as human forms, not just as parts of corpses?
    • A body is a body. Yes.
  • If the bodies were not charred, but were visible as distinctive human beings?
    • If they could be identified, no because of the family respect.
  • If a face on one of the bodies was recognizable?
    • No.
  • If the bodies were not of Americans, but of Iraqis?
    • I would publish, regardless.
  • If the bodies were not charred, but naked?
    • No.
  • If the bodies were women or children, not men?
    • Women, yes. Children, no because it’s an even more sensitive issue.
How to run it
If you choose to run a version of this image, you have many alternatives to express news values and to minimize harm. Consider these questions:
  • Would you prefer an alternate image?
    • Obviously you would want a different photo to tell the story in a less graphic form. Sometimes a photo tells so much more than a description in a cutline or story, and that’s why you run what you have.
  • If you ran it on the front page, where on the front page?
    • I would not at all because of its nature.
  • Would you run it inside?
    • Yes to satisfy that old “breakfast table” rule.
  • What size would you run the image?
    • I would run this as a dominant photo, or as a part of a photo spread if I had enough photos.
  • Would you explain why you were running the image or why not?  In what form would you explain this?
    • I think this photo shows the reader the essence of what is going on in this part of the world. I think an explanation would be disrespectful to the reader’s intelligence.
  • Would you issue a warning about the graphic nature of the image?
    • No. It could be a lot more graphic but in that sense, I would not publish it.
  • Would you be tempted — through cropping or digital manipulation — to alter the image?
    • No. Never.
  • If you didn’t run this image, how would you convey the news?
    • Be as descriptive as possible.
  • How would your media platform influence your news judgment?  What are the differences, if any, if you were making these judgments for a daily newspaper, a news magazine, network television, cable television, a news website?
    • I would feel the most liberal to publish this online than on any other platform. In regards to TV versus print, I would provide a warning just as a heads-up for viewers. I know I said I wouldn’t do this to for print because I feel like it’s challenging your readers’ intelligence more than giving them a heads up.
Consequences of your decision
Any decision you make will have consequences, some of which you can predict, some of which are unforeseen. Which of the following would concern you and why:
  • That publication of the image might turn public opinion for or against the war in Iraq?
    • Our job as journalists is to give readers the information they need to form their opinions. Not a concern.
  • That publication would somehow affect the safety of other civilians or soldiers in Iraq?
    • There are no identifiable people in this photo to have that affect. Not a concern.
  • That publication or broadcast might offend readers or viewers?
    • You can’t please everybody. Not a concern.
  • That it might upset children or the sensitive or impressionable?
    • This is why I would print this on the inside than on the front cover, somewhere children are less likely to see it.
  • That it might hurt your credibility?
    • I don’t think this photo can hurt a publication’s credibility. Not showing this photo does more damage.
  • That it might open you to charges of sensationalism?
    • If you publish pictures like this on a regular basis, than yes. But there must be overwhelming reason of why you publish photos like this so no concern.
  • That your competition might make a different decision?
    • We have to be secure with the decision we make and be able to back it up. Sometimes it might work to our favor, and sometimes it may not, but being able to stand by it is most important.
  • That you might be accused of a political bias in your coverage?
    • This issue might be prevalent depending on what type of story or cutline you publish with this photo, but being unbiased is always a principle to stand by.

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