Many publications are blurring or otherwise redacting today’s controversial New York Daily News front showing three stills from the chilling first-person video of the murder of two journalists.
The ethics of using the stills, which have been widely criticized on social media, have been debated among journalists because of their graphic nature. Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president for academic programs and a media ethicist, argues against using the unedited pictures.
“The problem with it is that it a deeply intimate image.” McBride said. “It is a moment of someone’s death.”
Some publications opted to publish the full, unedited image. Others decided not to include an image at all:
In a column titled “Why That Daily News Cover Crosses the Line,” Slate decided to include a blurred version of the cover. Farther down in the story, readers can click a box to view the original front page.
“We wanted to illustrate the post with the thing we were talking about, but we didn’t want to force people to look at it unless they wanted to,” Leon Neyfakh, the author of the article, told Poynter via email.
The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post is one of the few publications that embedded the original New York Daily News tweet with the front.
Although the image is preceded by a warning, it’s placed right after the lead of story — a spot where readers could easily scroll past accidentally.
The Huffington Post declined to comment on its decision to include the cover.
The New York Times
The New York Times did not use the cover in its story about outrage over the images. Instead, the paper opted to tell the story with tweets accusing the Daily News of insensitivity.
“We didn’t include those pictures in our main news package, and so we were not going to include those in this story either,” Katie Rogers, the reporter on the story, told Poynter via email.
While USA Today opted not to share the Daily News cover, it did embed a tweet showing tabloids from the UK that published similar graphic images.
Brian Stelter of CNN Money led with an image of the front page. The headline is in view, but the photographs are mostly obscured.
The story also discusses some less explicit front pages from other publications, including one from the Richmond Times-Dispatch featured by Poynter today.
Digiday described the cover in vivid detail but refrained from including it in its story.
However, staffers decided to share an image of the New York Post cover, noting that it looks similar but is slightly less graphic.
The Washington Post
Similar to The New York Times, The Washington Post used a blacked-out image of the front page, placing it at the top of the story.
The Wrap used a portion of the cover with the gun and the victim’s reaction in sight as a featured image at the top of the story.
As the reader scrolls through the story, the publication then gives a warning in the form of a subheading: “Graphic images of suspect Vester Flanagan pointing a gun at reporter Alison Parker dubbed ‘the image the shooter wanted us to see.'”
As the reader scrolls further, the entire cover comes into view at the center of the story.
If the story is about the cover, what is the correct way of treating the image?
Al Tompkins, senior faculty at The Poynter Institute, said that the images from the shooter’s perspective shouldn’t be shared at all.
Like the provocative Charlie Hebdo cartoons, readers can find the image somewhere if they want to, Tompkins said.
In contrast, McBride said stories about the front page should include some version of the image being discussed. But it’s necessary to make the story less intrusive for the reader. To do this, she suggests coming up with alternative treatments for the image, like shrinking or blurring it.