Graphic Images Cause Controversy

In Arielle Emmett’s Too Graphic?, discussion arose in regards to whether pictures published in American newspapers such as the New York Times were too disturbing to have been approved for print.  American newspapers usually leave graphic images out of their print to avoid upsetting the public.  However, surrounding the event of the Haitian earthquake in January, reporters and photographers were told that there were no restrictions on the photos they would capture.  As photographers arrived at the scene, the only images that could be captured were those of graphic nature:  dying people, pieces of bodies, nudity, and the misery/tragedy of victims.  The newspaper companies saw the published pictures as a way of telling the stories of the unfortunate victims of the earthquake.  “They [Haitians] wanted the world to see, to know how horrible it was.”   Newspaper companies strive for a balance in delivering what their audiences want to see and need to see.  They felt the images of death were necessary to “create a complete and accurate visual report.”

As one may understand this viewpoint in how the graphic images seemed to complete the story and help spread awareness, others would join the side of Valerie Payen-Jean Baptiste, a Haitian elementary school principal.  Baptiste was sickened and disturbed by the images that were ran through American newspapers.

“I’m tired of it; the photos are too much.  I know that [news outlets] took pictures, and that enabled people to raise money.  But what I see is that people in Haiti are really upset.  Some view the photos as an insult, a disaster, since we have already suffered so much.”

One cannot blame her for her emotions in regards to the printed images.  Baptiste continues,

“I’m not criticizing journalists [who] talk about the facts of the earthquake.  But my critique is about the tone of unnecessary pictures and videos…Seriously, is this cruelty really necessary to mobilize massive humanitarian action?”

Initially, those who took the side of the newspaper companies begin to lean towards the side of the elementary school principal (I know I did).  Both sides of the issue make sense, but Baptiste brings about a question worth serious thought.  Are these graphic and disturbing images really humanity’s only hope in receiving aid in the time of a tragic event?  I hope not.

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