When is a news photo too graphic?


The Reuters photo linked below is quite graphic. You’ve been warned.

My wife is an ex-Unipresser (UPI employee), and stays in touch with that community on-line. She was recently alerted to this photo.

A few questions occur to me:[list=1][li]Would the picture have been released if it was a victim’s head instead of the bomber’s?[/li][li]Where is the line between journalism and “death porn”?[/li][li]What does Opal think about it?[/li][li]What do you think of my first thread?[/li][/list=1]

I have to tell you that the picture was not that gory to me. If someone had been holding it up by the hair or something, maybe it would have grossed me out more… It almost looks fake to me. Wow, maybe I have been desensitized to violence by the media.

Your questions:

  1. No, the picture probably wouldn’t have been release if it was a victim’s head.
  2. I don’t know.
  3. N/A
  4. Fantastic, JohnM

Well, I’d never put it on TV.
And since I’m a producer in a newsroom, it’s my call.

But by no means is it the worst photo I’ve seen (that would be horribly burned victims of an airplane crash in Africa).

Decapitated heads

Victims of an accident, MAAAAYBEEEEEE. Victims of a crime? No. Criminals? No.

Poor taste. By American Standards. Run of the mill for some overseas cultures. Reuters is, as I understand, mainly for Non-Americans.

A similar issue was recently debated in the Letters to the Editor section of the local paper - the Richmond TImes-Disgrace (er…Dispatch). The paper ran a color photograph of an American soilder in Afghanistan receiving the last rites. It caused a huge uproar, primarily along the lines of “Don’t show pictures of dead or dying soilders - it is in poor taste.”

My reaction was, “Well, our actions in Afghanistan are news. And this is poor guy dying is part of the overall story - his death is news. Show the picture. People are upset? Great. War should be upsetting.”

Same with the picture of the head.

Barbarian, you’re right, burn victims can certainly be more graphic. After the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980, I recall seeing a photo from the crash site with a burned corpse in the foreground (Time magazine, IIRC). There was a good deal of controversy over the photo at the time, but since that was pre-Internet, and the Time archive only goes back to 1985, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding any online references.

Well, one gruesome picture per thread will do, anyway. :slight_smile:

Let’s discuss the matter, but let’s not turn this thread into a competition of who links the goriest picture.

Myself, I didn’t find the picture in the OP all that disturbing, but I’ve been told that I’m quite insensitive about these things. That’s why the Straight Dope was willing to hire me. :wink:

Well, there’s the horrible, classic photo of the young girl with napalm burns in Vietnam, screaming in pain and naked. Sometimes, upsetting photos should be shown to get a point across.

I’m not sure the above-referenced one falls quite into the same category but IMO, it was at least done with some degree of taste (head is on the ground, photo shot from a distance, etc.) and probably isn’t out of line for certain publications.

I find this photo even more disturbing. :frowning:

Snap! I’d never air it or print it either.

I agree about the burns thing - maybe showing survivors pics gives a positive angle on a tragedy? Perhaps with the head thing, it just breaks that death taboo?

There is something truly, truly terrible and horrific about that photo. It gives me the same shuddery feeling as Cecil’sDoes the head remain briefly conscious after decapitation? column.

DeniseV, your comment that “upsetting photos should be shown to get a point across” strikes at what I believe is the root of the matter. In the other photos mentioned there is a political context that gives the photo meaning, such as “bad planning leads to horrible casualties” or “America is committing atrocities in Vietnam”, but I’m not sure what point is made by a decapitated head sitting on the ground. My gut reaction to this photo is that it is not much different from printing autopsy photos; i.e., gore and emotional impact for their own sake.

JohnM, that’s what I was trying to get at, though I cut my post short due to distractions here. Graphic photos have their place and purpose, though I’m not sure this one really has a ‘message’ like the others cited. I’m wondering about the context it’s taken from; it looked more like a single shot from a larger photo gallery rather than a single news photo. If viewed in a series of photos about the bombing, it could fit in (the gruesome tasks that people have to perform in investigation, etc.). I don’t think it would serve a good purpose as a single photo to illustrate a story, though.

DeniseV, I agree that it looks like one shot of from a series. I tried looking for other photos from the same date, but they are no longer available through the photo gallery function of the Reuters site.

There are no words for the horror of that picture.

I think it belongs in IMHO. I just bounce it over there for ya.