Thursday, October 12, 2006

Journalistic Ethics

Here's how I imagine the conversation went.

- Bob, we've gotta have something about the Amish thing in here.
- Stan, we've got three minutes until press time.
- C'mon, we can't go to print without it. Can't somebody throw something together?
- Nobody's had time to write anything yet!
- We've gotta have something.
- Hey, how 'bout a photo essay? You only need one paragraph for that. And people like photos.
- Great. Make it happen.

And so, this week's Time Magazine includes a photo essay on the Amish mourning their children.

A photo essay on the Amish.

A photo essay on the Amish.

Did this not scream "problem" to anyone? How is it that no one said, "Uh. . . guys, aren't those the guys who don't like their picture taken?" Or maybe someone did say it. Wonder what the response was.

And I wonder who decided that newsworthiness covers over a multitude of sins. And that "what sells" is a close enough substitute for newsworthiness that it can, too.

3 comments:

revabi said...

This is true, and I forgot about that. Good post.

Rachel said...

The ombudsman over at the Washington Post wrote her column this weekend on the decision to take and publish pictures of the funerals, particularly one taken FROM A HELICOPTER during the burial of one of the girls. She interviewed David Weaver-Zercher, who said he wished the picture had never been taken, much less published, but ultimately agreed with the editors and photographers that "It was worth publishing, despite the intrusion, because the photo itself was a lamentation and a eulogy to the dignity, stoic faith and acceptance of the Amish."

Rachel said...

Just realized that last sentence had an ambiguous antecedent. The ombudsman, not Weaver-Zercher, was the one who agreed that publishing the picture was a good idea.