Handling Abu Ghraib Images
ABC News has published online a handful of newly-released photos from Abu Ghraib. The photographs, which were reportedly taken at the prison in 2003, are accompanied by a warning: "The following graphic depictions include nudity. Viewer discretion is advised."
Here are some questions Poynter's Reporting, Writing & Editing Group Leader Aly Colón thinks news organizations could consider when deciding whether to use the photographs and video:
- How similar or different are they from pictures and/or video already published?
- Where did the pictures/video come from?
- Why were they released now?
- What, if any, new light do they shed on the Abu Ghraib story?
- How will the pictures/video advance the Abu Ghraib story?
- How will the pictures/video help the reader/viewer better understand the Abu Ghraib story?
- Are the release of these pictures/videos related to the Muhammad cartoons?
- What context can the news organizations provide if they decide to use these pictures/videos?
- What journalistic principles, and journalistic purpose, will the news organizations rely on to justify whatever decision they make?
- What consequences do they forsee if they do, or don't, publish?
Here is some guidance on Visual Reporting Ethics developed by Visual Journalism Group Leader and Diversity Director Kenny Irby. (You can also download this as a PDF.)
- What is my journalistic purpose?
- What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider?
- What are my ethical concerns?
- Who are the stakeholders -- those affected by my decisions? Think inclusively.
- Is the content authentic?
- Are our research, reporting and rendering steps fair and honest?
- Is the work an example of credible creativity?
- What do I know? What do I need to know?
- Is the photographic content what the photographer saw in the viewfinder?
- Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my decision?
- How can I include the voices of other people with difference perspectives and diverse ideas?
- What are my alternatives?
- Is the content being changed in ways beyond basic image quality corrections?
- Is it necessary to place the image in context with additional text explanation?
- Blend of accuracy and aesthetics
- News value of story
- Impact on audience
Undertake thorough reporting about the image.
Discuss the circumstances associated with the image with the visual reporter.
Maximize journalistic responsibility while minimizing unnecessary harm.
When you ask good questions in advance, you make better ethical decisions.
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