If I had been the editor for the Associated Press, I would not have published this photos of Lance Cpl. Bernard in the “Moment of Death in War” coverage. While some journalists defended its use and agreed with the decision, I believe that blatantly ignoring his father’s request to not use the graphic photo was unethical.
I do believe that getting the “go ahead” from the Marines was an important part of the decision to publish, however, that would not have influenced my decision to publish against the family’s wishes. In my opinion, the photo should have only been published if the father hadn’t expressed his opposition to it.
The article How Newsrooms Handle Graphic Images of Violence from Nieman Reports discusses the ethical questions surrounding publishing images of violence and death. It emphasizes the importance of these images being published in order to inform of an event’s severity and make stories more impactful, while also expressing concerns about how some may be too traumatic for children or people with close connections to the subject.
With this in mind, I think that even though the photo showed “the real consequences of war,” I think this could have been accomplished using other information, such as the death toll and personal stories told by Marines’ families and perhaps other photos that weren’t necessarily of one specific individual.