I’m conflicted. I just wrote this post, but I can’t decide whether I’m right or not (a rare thing for an egotist like myself). I was arguing that photojournalists ought to be respectful of victims. However, I also imply that if the photo they capture is truly great–if it resonates like great images do–then they should use it. In this case, it’s clear to me that the photo’s use is gratuitous, but it’s difficult for me to extend that judgement into a rule of thumb. Give it a read and see what you think: [more]
Tragically, a two-year-old Canadian boy was killed yesterday in northern Cambodia during a hostage incident. Both national papers and both local papers featured a photo from this sad event on the front cover. Three of the four papers lead with the story–the Vancouver Sun led with the provincial cabinet appointments. Here are the photos the papers ran (I’m skipping article links because they’re all subscription, eventually) :
- The Vancouver Province displayed this photo of an APC at the scene.
- The Sun ran this photo of a Cambodian father running away with his uninjured daughter.
- Both the Globe and Mail and the National Post ran this blurry frame captured from a video, of the distraught father Martin Michalik carrying his dead son from the school.
Both local papers ran the Michalik photo inside.
Why is this story on the front page? Obviously, because it involves the murder of a Canadian child in an exotic country. It bleeds, so it leads. Should that really be front page news? Absolutely not. It’s worthy of reporting, but its front page position is gratuitous and reflects the waning standards of our media.
More pressing, though, is the photo. It’s a lousy image compared to the Cambodian father and daughter, which is crisp and well-composed. It has no artistic or metaphorical value. There are times when photojournalists can show us things that words cannot capture, no matter how horrific. This, clearly, isn’t one of those images.
Instead, the gap between the media and the paparazzi narrows, and the media fails to respect to the victims of this crime. They should be ashamed to exploit this family at its coarsest moment of suffering. Their unwillingness to extend this father any dignity is abhorrent.