Thursday, August 21, 2014
FIRESTORM OVER EXECUTION COVERAGE
ONE EDITOR’S VIEW--Even a monthly publication can be a daily newspaper if a huge story breaks on the day before you go to press and, of course, your staff and printer has your back.
I say this because my experience in journalism has been as an editor of six West Coast magazines and one newspaper.
For example, if the execution of American photojournalist James Foley happened today, in theory I could have mobilized my troops (back in the day) at San Francisco Magazine or North Park News to hit the newsstands the next day. A bit far fetched, but my point here is what would I have done HAD I possessed the grisly images of Foley’s beheading?
Would I have published what the New York Post published on Wednesday, August 20, 2014?
My decision today is based on the vow of poverty I took when I signed on to be the chief decision maker for any publication hiring me. I would have published the same image as the New York Post.
Reason is a newspaper has a professional responsibility to
publish the truth no matter where the truth takes you. If bloody images are needed to tell the whole story then similar to a marriage—for better or worse—you must deliver the news.
My decision only covers the next day of the murder. Publishing 24 hours after an event is called breaking news. Media has a responsibility to publish the truth and accurate news of the day within that time frame and within the context of illustrating the story. The grisly image (with all due diligence as to its accuracy) is proof that the murder took place.
Publishing more than one image of the murder borders on sensationalism and disgust on the part of the deciding editor. Follow up stories need not republish the grisly image(s) out of decency.
In conversation with the late Herb Caen, the award winning columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, I asked if he possessed a news item that most likely damage the career (or marriage, or reputation or all of the above) would he consider not publishing?
“Couldn’t do that because there are no secrets in this town and if I didn’t publish it someone else would and then I wouldn’t be doing the job I was hired to do.”
As for this modest blog, I chose not to publish the New York Post cover in question because this far away in time from the news event, it would have been sensationalism.
However, to make Mr. Caen’s point, the Newseum, a museum of journalism in Washington DC makes a practice on its blog to publish headlines of newspapers around the world. There on the same day, the Newseum published the New York Post’s front page:
IN OTHER NEWS:
Here’s the following from the National Press Club regarding the murder of James Foley:
By Jeff Plungis | firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Press Club condemns the execution of American photojournalist James Foley, who had been missing since Nov. 22, 2012. The terrorist group Islamic State released a video claiming to be Foley's execution.
The Press Club extends condolences to the Foley family, which had mounted a worldwide campaign to find James, who had been working for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse. Earlier in his career, Foley was a reporter for Stars and Stripes.
"We condemn in the strongest words possible the execution of a journalist who was carrying out his professional duties. Our thoughts and prayers go to James's parents, John and Diane Foley, who scoured the world to find their son, an extraordinary and brave photographer who sacrificed his personal safety to inform the world about the war in Syria, said NPC President Myron Belkind. "James paid with his life. We can best honor James by holding those who try to silence the press accountable and to continue reporting, even in the world's most dangerous places."
Foley's death is a reminder of how dangerous journalism can be. In Syria alone, more than 60 journalists have been killed since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dozens of others have been kidnapped. Worldwide, 30 journalists have been killed on the job in 2014.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The Wire, a national news blog reported the outrage many in the media expressed regarding the New York Post front page. Wire’s report can be seen by linking to: