Ethics and journalism is a difficult subject. We all say we would report, photograph and publish x, y and z but that is when we aren’t actually in the situation. When we know there is no consequences to our decision. I believe that we have to show the public some difficult things sometimes to allow them to see what is really going on in the world. The picture of the child and the vulture? It’s important to show that situations like this actually happen and are happening. The photo of Ambassador Stevens dying and being dragged away? I don’t see the need because I don’t feel the picture tells you any more than what words can, we’ve all seen photos similar to this.
At the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade a 67 year old man, who was part of the show, collapsed and died on the street. He had suffered a heart attack and his wife, who was also in the parade, had to watch the events unfolding. A couple of photographers who were at the parade stood a few metres away trying to get pictures as members of the public tried to save the man by doing cpr. Police officers threatened the photographers telling them to get away from the scene. Members of the public shouted abuse telling them ‘to go get some class’.
If you read the story and look at the pictures it is a tragic accident and one that you hear of often. For me, unfortunately, I was standing right where it happened. This was my first time attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. I was positioned at the barrier where the man collapsed. I had to watch his wife run over crying and repeatedly saying ‘please no, please no’ as she leant over her husband. I had to watch the lady next to me jump over the barrier and rush to his side where she tried to resuscitate him. I had to watch the photographer come up and try take photographs. I had to endure what felt like an excruciating long time until the paramedics arrived. To hear them tell everyone to stop trying to save him, that he was gone.
It was in that moment the real truth of what an ethical decision really meant hit me. A guy just doing his job versus a man dying with his wife crouched over him. Do we really need to see a picture of that? Or can we gather the basis of the story with simple words. Journalism is very much a business and editors want those pictures so they can sell stories and gain views to their online content. If you are the outlet with the picture, you’re the one that’s going to be bought and read.
But this is where journalism and business may have started to overlap too much. We have always wanted to see good pictures but it has got to the point where it could be considered as crossing the line. Showing pictures of the dead man on a stretcher being taken into the ambulance isn’t something you need to see. But it is what sells the papers. And in that moment I wouldn’t have wanted to take that picture. The picture wasn’t artistic, it wasn’t creative and it didn’t show a new side to something. It was a man having a heart attack while his wife and thousands of spectators looked on. Surely he should have been allowed one last piece of dignity and not had his photo taken.