Ethical Dilemmas

in Random Posts

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The Scene
This is a dilemma journalists and writers fight with all the time. Where is the line? At what point does it get crossed? I was once again asking myself that very question recently. I showed up at the scene of a shooting and started to set up my camera when the first scream echoed down the street. “If you point that f-in’ camera at me it will be the last thing you do” and that was quickly followed by the usual “don’t you f-in people have any respect?”

Fortunately there were cops everywhere, it was a crime scene after all. And I doubt anyone would have followed up on the threats. It was anger, disbelief, frustration, guilt, despair, and even perhaps some hate. But it wasn’t being directed at me personally, I was an intruder in this neighbourhood. There to take a few images of the worst of it before heading off never to be seen again. They had to stay.

So I stood up by the cops. Protected. I already knew no one wanted to talk to me. The police shift supervisor was nice and he provided as much details as I’m sure he knew and a couple kids wondering by asked what happened. “A guy was shot in his house. Do you live around here? Did you know him?” That was me asking, not the cop.

Fact of the matter is this story has to be told. It’s a murder. It’s already ugly and the media isn’t going add or take anything from that. There really was no ethical dilemma. This is what I do for a living. This is what I love. Would I push that line and go right up to the door a crying woman just walked into? No. The images spoke for her. Sometimes they say more than enough.

We should always remember these are people we cover. People with lives, loves, feelings, wants, and needs. People with families, friends, and, yes, sometimes enemies. I heard a story a couple years ago about a woman who went to see a therapist after her son was killed. She wanted help in dealing with his murder and with the pain she had when she saw a photo of him in the daily newspaper. He was laying on the ground covered with a tarp and he had his foot sticking out. She hated the idea that that’s how people would remember him. I took that photo. To me he was a dead drug dealer. To her he was a baby.

To the media a murder is a story. To our community its a tragedy and a failure. When we tell the story that part needs to speak the loudest of all.

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