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Thread: Should News Stories Force Graphic Images?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jester's Avatar
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    Default Should News Stories Force Graphic Images?

    I'm sure you've all seen the recent image making the rounds on social media and news reports of the drowned boy, in regards to the Syrian refugee crisis. It's an upsetting image, I know, and it is graphic. I'm sure that everyone has seen it, more than once, whether they chose to or not; even some articles with a fair warning at the top, show the image before the text, making it very difficult to avoid.

    Now, one of my friends (who is a parent to two young-ish children, although they are both much older than the boy in question) posted a status requesting that people stopped sharing the news articles/images as they were finding it particularly distressing. Fine, I get it, it is awful. They stated that the images served no purpose other than to shock, rather than raise awareness.

    Now, I'm not sure I entirely agree with this. It is shocking, yes, but I can't help but feel it is that exact nature that makes us read the articles rather than scroll past. It is this smack in the face with reality, a disturbing and distresing truth, that opens our eyes to what is really going on. It is very easy in the relative comfort and safety of the Western world to ignore or be blissfully ignorant of what people are seeing and experiencing on a daily basis and to forget that our Western privilage does afford us some power in making a change to this. In some ways, I feel that we need those shocking images, especially the ones that illicit a strong emotional response, to actually make people give a damn.

    That said. I am a forensic anthropologist; I am in the horribly unique position of being faced with such images, and worse, on a regular basis. I have become desensitised; seeing dead people is kind of what I do. That's not to say I don't come across galling images, that's not to say I don't find them horrific, just that I don't find them distressing any more. At the same time, some of the work I've done that has involved hands on work, has given a new depth to photos for me.

    This makes me think though, as I am not part of the 'majority'. My opinion is clearly skewed and biased. So perhaps I am being harsh in the idea that these images should be shown (or at the very least, not hidden). I understand that my studies/work makes things vastly different for me than those who do not share them.

    So I put it to you; should news stories show graphic images? Even if they are distressing and upsetting? Is it important to show them, or should they be confined to spaces where they are only see after reading the text? Are we likely to ignore problems, without having the reality, however harsh and depressing, shoved in our faces? I am genuinely interested to hear other peoples views on this.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member julian's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with you, Jester. One of my earliest memories is watching the news reports from the Vietnam war. Nightly these contained pretty gruesome images, with the most horrible probably the well-known image of the young girl with her back burning from napalm. Amongst other reasons, I'm pretty sure that these helped formed my lifelong belief in pacifism.

    The world is in many ways nasty and brutish - it should be shown as such, not sanitised. Only then will the people decide that they want leaders to behave in a different way. Hiding the truth simply means everyone can pretend such nastiness doesn't happen.

  3. #3
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    I think they should be shown, after a warning or a break (say on print/online have a graphic image warning and perhaps an option to NOT view the image - hiding it by default, and on broadcast media have the whole 'this report contains images some viewers may find distressing')

    I don't think censoring images of things that happened and are truly shocking is wise. I think the responsibility for censorship (in terms of not seeing something, not in terms of it existing or being circulated) in this context should be on you, the consumer, rather than the producer. If you don't want to see graphic images, fine, but they serve a purpose and to say that nobody should see them just because it makes you personally uncomfortable is completely unfair.

    So yeah, I think a warning should be given (maybe even going as far to have settings to automatically hide all photos pending user consent if you are that sensitive) over content but the content should still exist because it plays a very important role in illustrating the news story and shows more than words ever could in terms of human suffering etc.
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  4. #4
    Awesome Admin Hazel's Avatar
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    I think they should be shown in certain situations and with a warning.

    I also think there's nothing wrong with someone requesting people not repost it on their friends list, however, it doesn't mean that they should, imo if they are sensitive to such things then it may be best for them to stay off social media for a while as it's not moderated to the extent a formal news article is. I also don't believe the image in question is being used simply for shock value, this doesn't mean that previous graphic images haven't been though. It's all about context.

    Things do run through my mind a little though:

    Are the people's remaining families happy with images being heavily used on and offline? This is in the case of dead bodies, mutilated people etc
    Would you be happy as a grieving/concerned relative constantly seeing such images on the news/online?
    Did the person taking the photo do so out of genuine respect to raise awareness or for other reasons?
    Does using a graphic image always benefit the situation?
    Why do we see certain graphic images and not others? For example, in my 36 years on this planet I have been many instances of dead or dying children but never a woman dead from abuse or sexual assault, never a woman stoned to death because her husband cheated on her etc. Why is one graphic image "better" than another?

    I'm highly critical of media, especially in such sensitive cases, I am however glad that stories are sparking discussion and understanding.

    Just my mind wandering, these are of course all rhetorical.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member MrsLoveLace's Avatar
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    I think a warning should be used before hand so people can chose whether to watch or not. I fear we will become desensitized if it's shown without true consideration first, if that makes sense, and that should never happen as the evils of the world should never be seen any less than what they are.

    I get very angry sometimes. I get petition emails and there is no warning to what is in them until I open them. Anything to do with children, the vulnerable or animals, etc, is distressing for me. Not only do I sit and sob, it can take me days/weeks to forget a picture, in fact, there is one picture from over 30 years ago that still haunts me today. What particularly angers me is that the scum sub-humans that cause it, don't give a damn so it's caring people who end up sometimes traumatised by seeing something and yet the evil acts continue. The media and snap happy photographers need to consider families too. Showing pictures before someone's death or even videos is wrong in my opinion. They don't need to relive or see their loved ones alive, knowing that minutes later, they're gone.

    I don't believe in using images in the media to stir up societies emotions when we're not getting the whole story. The media has a hell of a lot to answer to. Crazy isn't it, they'll show death and heart breaking pictures but many still pixelate a nipple. If an image produces something positive as an outcome, that is different but when it's used to grab a headline, it is wrong.
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  6. #6
    Awesome Admin Hazel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrsLoveLace View Post
    I don't believe in using images in the media to stir up societies emotions when we're not getting the whole story. The media has a hell of a lot to answer to. Crazy isn't it, they'll show death and heart breaking pictures but many still pixelate a nipple. If an image produces something positive as an outcome, that is different but when it's used to grab a headline, it is wrong.
    Exactly, we have to consider why graphic images are shown by media.

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