Pictures of MH17 bodies and Gaza war victims are disturbing enough that many mainstream media outlets do not attempt to show them. While grieving families and personal belongings are not too much for the media to photograph and publish, the idea of publishing photos of dead bodies seems to go too far.
However, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that former beliefs on publishing graphic images of bodies have not stopped some magazines and other media outlets from publishing photographs of the MH17 victims and Gaza casualties.
Time recently published a picture of a body that had fallen from the sky through the roof of a home, and a picture of a body from MH17 was published on the front page of The Weekend Australian. Pictures of the fallen in the continuing war situation in Gaza can be found everywhere in media online with a quick search on almost any search engine.
Michelle Gunn, editor of The Weekend Australian said, “You’re balancing the imperative to convey the reality of the crime against the need not to cause unnecessary distress.” She compared the situation to “walking a tightrope” when deciding whether or not to publish graphic images of bodies of MH17 victims and other images.
While some people complain about seeing such images, others are in full support of seeing the story as it really happened. Others believe that certain sensitivities must be respected and that images should not cross a certain line.
“We all believed it was the right decision. But there were important concessions we made in doing so. We heavily cropped that photo to make sure you couldn’t identify who it was. We were also sensitive about picking a photo with not too much blood, burns, or disfigurement. We also ran it small and below the fold,” Gunn explained.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the use of more graphic images, such as the pictures of MH17 bodies and Gaza war victims, may be partly due to social media, competitive elements, and desensitization.
In a world where nearly anyone with a camera and an internet connection can post pictures and stories immediately, journalists are forced to essentially compete with “citizen photojournalists,” according to Julie Posetti, a University of Wollongong journalism academic and Research Fellow with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in Paris.
Posetti claims, “Images may need to be increasingly graphic to be deemed newsworthy.”
Bruce Guthrie, editorial director of The New Daily said, “The test for me hasn’t changed and it’s a twofold question: is the story of such historical and social impact that it justifies the publication of confronting pictures? And two: is it the only way to tell that story?”
Many news publications have decided to tell the story of MH17 and Gaza by publishing the graphic pictures of bodies, and Guthrie thinks that most mainstream media news sites did the right thing in how they handled images of MH17 bodies and Gaza war victims. “If we are running behind social media, then I’m glad of it,” he said. “Besides, I haven’t heard too many people complaining that they didn’t see enough horror.”
Supporters of graphic images claim that this is the only real way to accurately show what has happened in horrific instances. Many claim that the media, especially in the United States, is often censored and does not expose people to the real truth of the situation.
On the other hand, people who do not support the use of graphic images in mainstream media believe that it is disrespectful to the victims, families of the victims, and even unnecessary in the telling of the story. Many fear that the families of the victims could stumble upon pictures of their departed loved ones, leaving a mental picture that many would find to be traumatizing.
Publishing graphic images of MH17 bodies, Gaza war victims, and other situations may accurately portray a story better than any descriptions in words ever can, but the reality of the images often stays with a reader for a very long time. Do you think that graphic images of bodies in the media are ever appropriate?
[Images via Associated Press]