By Nelson Graves
The images stick in my mind, examples of the power of visuals, the changing nature of media and our fearsome responsibilities.
In one video, taken from the shooter’s viewpoint, a handgun is fired at startled TV journalists. In a photograph, a toddler in shorts and sandals lies face down on a beach, the sea lapping at his matted hair. He could be napping, but, no, he is dead.
The images shock. They have stirred controversy.
Do we need to see two TV journalists gunned down by a disgruntled former colleague in a snuff video? Are we showing respect to the drowned boy by broadcasting the photograph of his corpse around the world?
These are valid questions. In the past, when publishers and broadcasters controlled the dissemination of news visuals, such questions touched on media ethics.
We are the editors.
But with the Internet and digitization, the media has forever changed, and the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Editors no longer control news. The agonizing that used to be the preserve of newsrooms is now a collective responsibility.
It’s debatable whether the new trustees of content — social media and the Internet — are able to draw clear ethical guidelines. Social media is really a reflection of its users. We are the editors.
What is undeniable is that the video of the Virginia shootings and of the drowned Syrian boy — 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi — are gruesome snapshots illustrating large, ongoing stories of great import — guns in America and refugees in Europe.
When the debate over the ethical implications of the images quiets down, we’ll be left with the underlying reality of death in America by gunshot, in Syria by armed violence and in the Mediterranean and Europe by drowning and asphyxiation.
Whether or not we broadcast images of the victims, and however they are manipulated for political purposes, these issues need to be addressed.
That, too, is our collective responsibility. And one that News-Decoder takes seriously as it charts a course towards helping a new generation of world leaders come to grips with its global opportunities — and responsibilities.