Wick Communications

Would you run it?

In Ethics on July 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I love this photo. Half Moon Bay Review photographer Charlie Russo shot it at during a drill designed to train firefighters for what they might see at an accident scene.

I really love it. It’s well composed, it’s in focus, the lighting is right and more than all that it benefits from a certain juxtaposition. You don’t usually see people with those kinds of apparent injuries laughing and smiling. In other words, the photo surprises, which is about the best thing you can have in a news feature photo.

But I didn’t use it.

For that, I can thank Charlie. …

Charlie agreed with me that it was a great photo. After all, he took it. But he said that he worried how a photo like that might affect someone who had been through a terrible car crash or who had perhaps lost a family member in an accident. He thought it might be really traumatic for a few or even one of our readers.

Upon reflection, I think he’s absolutely right. Of course, he came back from that assignment with a bunch of good photos. (You can see the layout we did use here. I think you’ll see it tells the story just as well, without being downright scary.) So I had choices.

I think it’s a useful lesson for all of us. At any moment you could be called upon to take a dramatic news photo. You might capture someone in the worst moment of her life. It might be hard for the people in the photo to see. You might choose to run it even though all that is true.

Just don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t consider the consequences. Take the photo. Then take a minute. Does the photo tell the story? Will it be unduly difficult for the people in the photo or in the community? Does it feature children? Will the competition run a similar shot? Do you have options? Is the story so important that the sheer news value trumps other considerations (which may have been the case in the Rep. Giffords shooting, for example)?

These are difficult questions and the answers may not be obvious. Reasonable people will have differing opinions. It’s just important that you know to ask the questions of yourself.

Clay

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