- Donald Rumsfeld has ‘no idea’ if he paid taxes correctly
- Bradley Manning named honorary grand marshal of San Francisco Pride parade
- Look out PayPal: Facebook working toward mobile payments system
- U.S. rebukes Iran’s U.N. envoy pick over 1979 embassy attack
- Stoned mom avoids jail after driving 12 miles with baby on roof
- More than 100 ‘inappropriate’ encounters between NYC school staffers, students since 2009: report
- Joe Biden to Boston bombing survivors: ‘America will never, ever stand down’
- FBI failed to throughly vet Boston bombing suspect after Russian lead, report finds
- Atlanta Braves flooded with Hank Aaron hate mail: He’s a ‘scumbag’
- University: Help, our campus is too white
HARPER: Making the call on a graphic scoop
Two of my former students recently found themselves caught in a drive-by shooting in Kensington, a neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
“The driver hit the van that I am crouching next to for cover, right in front of me, not two feet away,” Ms. Fry reported. “The victim’s head smashed into the window and there was smoke everywhere.”
With her left hand, she dialed 911. With her right hand, she documented what had happened with her camera. Mr. Larrison shot video.
Ms. Fry and Mr. Larrison contacted me about posting the material at bit.ly/16f4Cah on philadelphianeighborhoods.com, which I help run. The photographs and video display the shock of the onlookers and the body of a young man; the coverage is not for the faint of heart.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics reads in part that journalists should “clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.”
Reporters and editors must determine what to cover, how to report on a story and whether to publish a story. Sometimes those calls are easy; sometimes they are not.
Is it appropriate to publish such graphic material? My colleagues and I determined it was in this case because the visuals captured what happened. All too often these crimes — if they even are covered — end up as a paragraph or two in local newspapers or broadcasts.
In fact, several people applauded our publication for running the material, particularly since it showed what happened in an undercovered and underserved community like Kensington, which we report about on a continuing basis.
Should we have digitally masked the victim’s face? Here is what the National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics states: “Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.”
I have had the misfortune of covering a number of stories that involved death: the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana; the Sabra and Shatilla massacre in Beirut; and the attack against the U.S. Marine compound in Lebanon. These events left a total of more than 2,000 dead. Looking at coverage of the Boston Marathon, I found few instances of victims’ faces being digitally masked from view in the four news events.
Edward Trayes, my colleague at Temple University and an accomplished photographer, has taught photojournalism for many years. “The story is unsettling and one can empathize with loved ones and families affected,” he said. “A good test in such cases seems to be along the lines of ‘redeeming social value.’”
We applied that standard, to Mr. Larrison’s video, and nearly 20,000 people saw the material.
How should we respond to complaints from the family to remove the photographs, complaints that came with a statement that legal counsel had been retained?
About the Author
Christopher Harper is a professor of journalism at Temple University. He worked for The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20” for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- HARPER: Despite lousy reviews, media give Hillary Clinton a pass
- HARPER: Film will tell the Gosnell abortion doctor murder story that media didn't
- HARPER: A little late, media step up on Obamacare's woes
- HARPER: Flight 370 disappearance stymies reporters
- HARPER: Fresh thinking as readers rearrange the front page
TWT Video Picks
By returning to goodness, the nation can achieve greatness once again
Get Breaking Alerts
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea
- PHILLIPS: What did Harry Reid know and when did he know it?
- Atlanta Braves flooded with Hank Aaron hate mail: He's a 'scumbag'
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
Recent Letters to the Editor
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Solution to Cyprus dispute is no 'mistake'
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obama's real wealth redistribution scheme
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obamacare numbers nothing to celebrate
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Unanswered bus-crash questions
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lerner won't face meaningful punishment