Just because you can doesn’t mean you should (again)

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Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

I wrote a blog post with that same headline in 2009 (that blog, sadly, no longer exists).  The post was about a photograph showing a mortally wounded 21-year-old Marine in his final moments of life.

The Marine’s father had asked that the image, taken by an embedded photographer, not be published.

The AP reported in a story that it decided to make the image public anyway because it “conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”

Today’s debate centers on the photograph of a father and his young daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States.  I’m not here to discuss immigration, but rather if publishing this image was the appropriate thing to do.

Advocates say that the photo demonstrates the risks migrants are willing to endure to get to the United States. That the visual depiction of the situation is stronger that words.

Those that are against believe the media are exploiting this to sell more papers or get more viewers. And still others say, in general, when images like this are published, they are almost always of people of color, suggesting a different level of filtering may exist.

There can be no doubt that photos create powerful reactions.  In newsrooms every day, decisions are being made about what to publish or put out over the airwaves.

If you were making that decision, what would you have done?

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

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