Journalistic gymnastics

Like most people in London, I hadn’t realised that the Bay Area town of Oakland had undergone rioting earlier this month triggered by the shooting of a young African American by a policeman. Tobin Harshaw picks his way through journalistic moral issues whilst trying to explore the social issues around this event.

One line in particular stuck out to me “On New Year’s day, transit police shot and killed a 22-year-old black man, Oscar Grant III, as he lay on the ground of a train platform (amateur video of the shooting available here, but don’t click before considering that you’ll be watching images of a human being suffering a fatal injury)“.

This is a really interesting stance, the video hoster hasn’t taken the video down and the New York Times felt that its readers had to have access to the fatal shooting.

Contrast this with the largely sanitised news footage that we tend to see from war zones nowadays and I was wondering what had made the difference?

I worked promoting Al Jazeera’s SMS news service during the second Gulf War and prior to taking the client on we did a bit of research on what was appropriate and why Al Jazeera was devisive. Part of the reason was that they were prepared to share an unsanitised picture with the world.

I think that this approach has helped swing the pendulum back towards transparency of images in the media as it gave mainstream media sources permission.

Secondly citizens as media publishers have been putting content out there without the kind of editorial hand wringing that the New York Times may have done in the past, instead it has been salved with this little linguistic jig.

2 replies on “Journalistic gymnastics”

  1. I wonder what the legal implications of this are – it made me think of the Jean Charles de Menezes case in the London bombings. If footage appears all over the internet before due process has been carried out, would that in any way affect any jury or investigating teams, or pubic opinion? In a police shooting then there are the legal implications of public information and howit affects public opinion, and trial by media goes against liberal democratic legal ethics.

  2. Hi Andy,

    I hope that things are going well in Singapore, pass my regards on to Melvin. We had a similar thing with the miners strike and the Wapping protests and TV news footage was viewed as not admissible by British judges at the time.

    The US legal system is a very different beast however where publicity plays a role.

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