The ‘Ethics’ of Journalism
Can you be too sensitive for Journalism? Scanning through controversial images in a group discussion made me wonder if insensitivity is necessary to aid a powerful story. The question is: where does the line of insensitivity fall? A single controversial photo is taken and within minutes it has become viral. The whole world is accessing it through social media as an entirety. A few hash tags later and you’re looking at the most talked about news on Twitter.
When I first saw the photo of ‘The Falling Man’ below, my initial instinct was to question the ethics of our politics as Journalists. Why is it relevant for a disaster to be portrayed in such an explicit way? Undoubtedly, the photo has an element of beauty, but why do we require such a tragic day to be defined by a photo? Before the use of digital technology, words were enough. Are we crossing the line too often, simply because we can?
A documentary entitled ’9/11: The Falling Man’ was made, highlighting the uproar triggered from the release of this photo and the disgust regarding its insensitivity. The general public consensus concluded that this standard of photojournalism was ‘disrespectful’ and it makes me question the media’s proximity to the public. After the name of the ‘Falling Man’ was released, the photo became not just a man, plummeting to his death, but someone’s son, someone’s friend. Despite these reactions, the photo still transformed into an internet sensation. It all seems somewhat hypocritical.
The photo below it, taken by the famous- or debatably infamous- photojournalist Kevin Carter, portrays a hungry vulture waiting on a starving child in Sudan. The photo was intended to be a ‘metaphor for Africa’s despair’. Although Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, the controversy over his lack of attempt to save the child resulted in his suicide shortly after receiving the award.
Who is to blame? As journalists, should we be blamed for providing such evocative and invasive photographs? Or should the public take responsibility for creating a demand for them?