One of the exhibits at the Newseum focuses on the topic of ethics in news reporting. As part of this, visitors are presented with ethical dilemmas and then asked to make a decision about that dilemma.
The first scenario I was presented with was based off the photo below, “Starving in Sudan” by Kevin Carter.
The image depicts a young girl, too weak to crawl to a food shack nearby. She is near death and the buzzard is sitting waiting for her to die. The question presented was, if you were the photographer would you take the photo and not help the girl OR help the girl but lose the photo. I found this to be a very difficult decision, especially since the choices were so black and white. I wanted the option of taking the photograph and then helping the girl. Since this was not one of my options, I decided I would not be able to walk away without helping her. I would rather lose a photo than feel like I could have prevented a life being lost. The majority of the public agreed with me, however the majority of journalists did not. Journalists argued that their job is to tell a story in hopes of mobilizing others to help the cause, possibly saving more lives at the expense of this one. One did admit that it would have been very hard to walk away without helping, a sentiment I share. It seems that the photographer felt the same way; he voiced his regrets about not helping the girl and ended up committing suicide.
The second dilemma involved the photograph of an electrocution below, taken by Thomas Howard.
Even though it is illegal to take photographs during executions, Howard snuck a camera in and snapped this secret photo. The question asked was whether you would sneak a camera into an electrocution in order to take a photograph. This was not as hard for me to decide. I felt that the photographer was justified in sneaking the camera in. There is a story there that the public deserves to hear. Although the image may be gory, I feel people deserve to fully understand issues that they are asked to vote on, such as the death penalty. Journalists seemed to agree overall; they voiced the opinion that although this was a stunt and was used more for dramatic effect than to tell a story, in the end the “greater good” was served by this photo being taken. In other words, something that had been previously hidden from the public was revealed, which is ultimately the goal of investigative journalism.