Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 8

Picture This: The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism

There is a lot of power that comes with photojournalism. Now days, seeing a photo paired with a catchy title is more or less the deciding factor in reading an article. It is unfortunate, but ultimately true. With this, photojournalists have to make decisions in terms of the victims being the primary stakeholder. This is conflicting when your loyalty does not necessarily lie with the victim. Or rather your sympathetic loyalties do lie with the victim, but your boss enforces a direction that pressures you to run a photo that isn't the most ethical.  It is too often the case that someone else's misfortune is good fortune for the photojournalist. Thinking back to the news report in which the body of a young boy was lying on the ground after a hit and run renders a negative and insensitive reaction. The station abused a traumatic event for the sake of a decent news story.

I think Gary Bryant created a good checklist to follow that allows photographers to perform their duties without invading the privacy of the victim. Had the news station respected the grieving family member and the dead boy under the advised checklist, the reported event would have been just as effective. I think there is a time and a place for such images to make a large impact, but photojournalists must be smart in their tactics for garnering intense images that inadvertently dramatize an unfortunate situation.

When it comes down to it, Kant's categorical imperative is the most important principle to consider if a photo rides the line of ethics. For example, the photo run in the University of Florida newspaper, did not follow the principle. In my opinion, despite the editor's claims, the photo was used as a means to an end rather than an end to a means. Running the photo with a dead baby is never ethical, especially when the story alone provides the desired effect on the readers.

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