Covering the Moment of Death in War

The situation of publishing a photo of a U.S. Marine dying in war in the newspaper is a very touchy subject because as much as it is news, it is very heartbreaking to see, especially if that was your loved one.

The photo was a good capture of in moment of action shot, which is what many photographers and photojournalists look for, but to go ahead and use the graphic photo of the Marine severely wounded for the cover of a newspaper article is outrageous. Also, it mentioned a “squad of Marines was ambushed,” but with using just this one photo, it picks the certain individual out when a squad of Marines may not be too noticeable at pointing out who is who.

I also would feel sorry for the family as I wouldn’t want someone finding out through my newspaper that their relative died. If I was in that situation, I would want to be told on the phone or in person about the death and be warned that it was going to be in the newspaper before I saw it.

However, those are my moral beliefs on the subject, but ethically, I would publish the photo if I were the editor for the Associated Press, even if I took serious backlash from the public for it.

The photojournalist went out of her way to make sure it was ok to publish the photo and she got permission from fellow Marines and it was ethical for her to publish something that was newsworthy as a moment of war and she didn’t manipulate the photo. Also, it was ethical for her to publish the photo because she had gained access to the scene anyways and no one told her that she couldn’t take certain photos.

Overall, every newsworthy situation, especially this one, is very challenging because you will always have people who are critical of whatever your news organization releases. But, as much as it hurts you personally to publish something upsetting, you have to consider the fact that what you’re doing is ethical and helping someone know what’s going on in the world when they couldn’t physically be there themselves.

From my experience of reading local newspapers, I haven’t seen any war photography published because I think news organizations may be in the same situation of trying to figure out if they want to take serious backlash for what they post and/or think too much about the families of the Marines at home.

Source: Plaisance, Patrick Lee. Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice. SAGE, 2014.



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Morgan Golliver

Senior at Utica College

One thought on “Covering the Moment of Death in War”

  1. Yes there will always be backlash because you can’t please everyone. Actually the AP did talk with the father first and even though he asked they not publish it, the AP did anyway. I think you make a good point, why not a photo of the entire squad being attacked rather than focus on one soldier? Do you think that could have been just as effective, or perhaps even more effective in telling the story rather than focus on a graphic image of one soldier?


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