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Should War Reporters Show Dead People On Camera?

By Author: sherry roberts
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Introduction
Today, viewers have more opportunities, sometimes unintentionally, to stumble onto graphic content. Some events such as a terror attack, shooting, and natural disasters are characterized by horrifying images of dead people. Press photographers have increasingly captured such terror and grief with their lenses. Reporters face a constant need to make decisions on whether or not to show images of dead people, where to show them, which ones to use, how they should be contextualized and captioned as well as why and how to present them. While the ethical dilemma presented by images of death is far from new, the fact that such graphic images are everywhere. This makes the issue more important yet very difficult. This paper discusses the practice of showing images of the dead in relation to the ethical codes established by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Background information
When it comes to broadcasting the images of dead bodies, there is a grey area that appears when it comes to deciding whether to publish or not. Journalists must decide whether to give in to the outstanding demand for details and photos of death scenes or withhold photos taken in respect to the family of the deceased. The situation is heavy today compared to the past. There has been an increase in the broadcast of the images of dead bodies across all forms of media. The practice cuts across global and geographical borders. A distinction whether to broadcast or publish such images has to be made within the ethical code (Ward, 2013).
These images have appalled some people particularly because they define the victim by the moment of their death. Others have seen it as an honest way to document real issues. While SPJ and PRSA codes play a significant role in determining journalistic conducts, the digital news site lacks a blanket policy on how it handles similar pieces of images. Journalists carefully weigh news value versus an image’s role in a given story in making decisions with respect to such images (Bukro, 1985). The practice has demanded serious attention from news organizations. The attention has been compounded by the possibility of psychological harm to journalists, who come into contact with extensively traumatic events. Additionally, context and context matters are sometimes may be lost when circulating an image. As a result, some countries, such as UAE have passed laws to criminalize the posting of pictures for the dead on media.
Ethical codes that apply and explanation
The images of dead people raise specific ethical issues that journalists should deal with before they can be broadcasted or published to avoid jeopardizing the core media value of telling the truth. Professional journalists distinguish themselves from others by not only their editorial judgments but also a commitment to ethical codes. The SPJ’s code of ethics has four principles that form the foundation of ethical journalism. SPJ’s code of ethics relevant to this dilemma includes showing compassion for those affected by coverage, balancing the public’s need for information against potential discomfort and harm as well as the long-term implications of the broadcast (Wilkins & Brennen, 2004).
On one hand, while such images are viewed as horrible, they reflect the truth of certain happenings. Therefore, the job of the journalist is to report it as it is. The argument is that viewers have a choice of whether to view the channel or change specifically when there is a warning of graphic content (Silcock et al., 2008). Perhaps if the society sees such images, it will be moved to do something to confront the actual truth of the situation. Therefore, the argument is that such images make the truth sink deeper. If journalists fail to show it, it may be seared into the minds of the witnesses but not in the minds of the public.
On the other hand, such images may portray the act of violence to be rewarding. For example, if an individual sees attention bestowed on an act of suicide in the news, he or she may believe that attention is a form of reward. Therefore, the viewer may be more likely to see suicide as a potential way to receive a similar reward. Hence, the consequences of showing the images of dead bodies may not be positive. In fact, showing such images frequently may only desensitize viewers, thus lowering their physiological responses and minimizing the probability that they will avoid such acts that led to the problem. Viewing the tragic images may become the norm. In the long term, they may be less shocking, extreme and offensive (Wheeler, 2005).

Carolyn Morgan is the author of this paper. A senior editor at Melda Research in superior writing services. if you need a similar paper you can place your order for a custom research paper from best custom writing services.

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