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Monday, June 28, 2010

Publishing grisly photos

Should newspapers print photographs that can upset readers? Should television news channels show pictures of a graphic nature? Should media websites provide links to "death photos"? These questions do not have pat answers, as senior journalists will testify.

Last June, after a Thai newspaper published what it said was a photo of actor David Carradine's body found hanging by ropes in a Bangkok hotel closet, Al Tompkins of Poynter Online weighed in on the issue by explaining why the "alleged Carradine death photos should not be published". In the article, Tompkins also threw light on the decision-making process that goes on in newsrooms regarding the inclusion of graphic content.

Tompkins also provided a link to Pearl Photo: Too Harmful, a piece by his colleague Bob Steele on the ethics of such decisions. Steele wrote his column after a Boston paper published "horrific pictures" of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Both articles give us much to think about.

'THE PERILS OF PREGNANCY'
Still on the subject of photos that can upset readers, Time magazine on June 21 published a photo feature titled "Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone: The Story of Mamma". Subtitled "One woman's journey from pregnancy to death", the feature comes with a warning: "Please note that this gallery contains graphic content."

Was Time justified in publishing these pictures? Let me know what you think.
  • Here, meanwhile, are the letters re: "The Story of Mamma" that Time published in its issue of July 5:
A MOTHER'S TOO BRIEF LIFE
While I appreciated "The Perils of Pregnancy," about Mamma Sessay, I take offense at the pictures. Showing this woman at her most vulnerable was disrespectful. Would these photos have been cleaned up if she were not a poor African woman?
Tola Abe,
Raleigh, N.C., U.S.


Your piece on Sessay's death during childbirth brought tears to my eyes. The piece made me scared for the millions of women in the world who lack medical care. How long will we cry for our women?
Abdul Sebiotimo,
Abuja


Please let me know what I can do to help Sessay's family or another family avoid the same fate.
Angela Bolds,
Lawton, Okla., U.S.


ALICE PARK RESPONDS: CARE and UNICEF, which accept individual donations, have excellent global maternal-health programs.

1 comment:

  1. I comment with a heart so heavy! Right and wrong-phew...
    wrong would be women dying giving birth in a world which has advanced so much in the medical sciences.
    wrong would be two kids orphaned at birth.
    Pics are so gory cause the reality is painful-and if it was just a story about a woman who dies giving birth to twins some distant part of the world-would we even look up!

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