WARNING: The photo in reference is found at the bottom of the post and may disturb some readers as it partially shows the corpse of a child. Please do not scroll down to bottom of post if you do not wish to see this content.
The issue with this news piece has little to do with the content of the article and more so with the photo used with it. The photo shows the corpse of the 14 year-old victim under a white sheet and with his face aptly pixellated. No trigger warning was shown, and the photo was used as a thumbnail for the online article. This brings me to question how a number of provisions from the SPJ Code of Ethics were utilized.
- “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”
Though the body is technically covered, you can still make out the form of his body, clearly frail and small. The fact that it is a body of a young boy makes this even more disturbing. I believe that this is an example of an imbalance between the need for information and the discomfort of the audience. In fact, I believe the photo does not necessarily fall under the “need for information” clause. The article itself, in my opinion, was very though and shared enough information for the audience to clearly understand the events and impact of the story. It seems as if the photo, especially with the edits in its color, was shown to emphasize the morbidity of the case and shock value.
- “Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach or treatment.”
The fact that harm was done to a child, and extreme harm at that, should be an alarm for escalated care and sensitivity to the news related to it. However, it seems that has not been the case. The photo shown, despite the body technically being covered and the face being pixellated, is still visual enough for the audience. Such exposure could cause the family even more grief as well, especially since it is such a high-profile case. In fact, the name was even mentioned in the article, though I think given the controversial nature of the case this is unavoidable at this point.
- “Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.”
This article was posted the day after an initial photo (the one shown in Comm 110 class) was highly circulated on social media. Though a big step away from that, I think the audience has enough information (and if they saw the original photo, has seen enough images) for the additional photo to be unnecessary.
- “Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.”
Again, the shock of the photo, and the high-profile factor of the issue and previous photo circulating online may have led to the use of the morgue photo. I think this was used to draw people in due to its gruesomeness. Though highly disturbing, it is still a point of interest for the audience. If anything, the morbidity of the case peaks their interest even more. I think this is why the photo was included in this article. However, I still deem it unnecessary. Given the context of the case and online circulation of various photos, the article itself was enough and no picture was needed. If a thumbnail is truly necessary, a more humane photo of the victim could have been used. Despite the controversy that comes with the death of the boy, he still needs to be treated with respect.