Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No decency for journalism

As the Iraq War rolled on, journalists raised a small stink about the Pentagon's refusal to let them photograph flag draped coffins that were returning to the United States. Maybe, maybe I could be convinced that there is a journalistic point in doing so. But when it comes to this, I cannot be persuaded:
FEMA, which is leading the rescue efforts, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, Reuters reported.

A FEMA spokeswoman told the wire service that space was needed on the rescue boats and assured Reuters that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail.

On Wednesday, journalist groups protested the move.

"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," Larry Siems of the PEN American Center told Reuters.

Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said: "The notion that, when there's very little information from FEMA, that they would even spend the time to be concerned about whether the reporting effort is up to its standards of taste is simply mind-boggling. You cannot report on the disaster and give the public a realistic idea of how horrible it is if you don't see that there are bodies as well."
Americans have a pretty good idea how horrible this disaster is. Pictures of the dead is one one of the most horrific things I can imagine for the survivors. Tell me this. If you just went through hell and had family members and friends still missing, would you want to learn of their fate by seeing their dead, bloated body on the front page of the New York Times or as the lead in for ABC Nightly News? Is it necessary to traumatize people further? The answer to the second question is no, not for a good journalist. This is nothing more than a media attempt to fire political volleys, decency be damned. All I can see when I think of this story is the media as vulture feeding on the death in New Orleans.

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