Senior politics editor faces print dilemma

12 Apr

In July 2014, flight MH17 crashed after being hit by a missile and disappeared while traveling over Ukraine. Journalists around the world began reporting on the incident. Paige Lavender, senior politics editor at the Huffington Post was concerned upon looking at the photos taken on the site of the plane crash. Many of the photos showed graphic content that would be disturbing to a lot of people. In a few of the photos, family members could identify the deceased subjects if they saw the images.  “You have to decide if you want to show the reader an image that’s disturbing and do you show identifying images of people when you do not even know if their families are aware of the accident,” says Lavender while reflecting on the dilemma. Lavender and her team decided to publish some of the graphic photos on their website with clear warning signs to their readers of what was coming farther down the article. They chose not to put any of the photos on front pages or publish identifying images. They published “wide shot images that showed the destruction and we gave a proper warning before we showed any bodies or anything like that,” Lavender says.

Lavender and the Huffington Post took a safe approach to this controversial topic. One British broadcaster, while reporting on the site of the accident, picked up one of the passenger’s passports and read off the person’s information. This might not seem like a crucial problem, however I think this is unethical because anyone who had known that person was watching, this would be devastating for him or her. This ethical issue comes up in the journalistic world at just about every deadly incident around the world.  One of the most famous disputes centered on the 9/11 attacks and the image of “The Falling Man,” which was a photograph taken by Richard Drew of the Associated Press. The photo features a man falling headfirst from one of the towers that were attacked. This image captures the last moments of someone’s life and had a lot of controversy centered on it. One major argument of this controversy is that people should see the graphic images because they deserve to know the truth about events that take place throughout the world.

However, I think the Huffington Post’s decision of not posting graphic images to the front pages and to give their readers a warning was the right choice in this type of situation. Some people cannot handle or do not want to see graphic content like that, so viewers should not be forced to see those images. There were over 200 people on the flight; each one had family and friends of their own. Those family and friends should also not be forced to view the graphic images. It’s important for the photos to be out there for those who want to see the entirety of what took place, however they should have clear warnings for the viewer to make the decision themselves, it should not be made for them.

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