Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ethical reporting - where do we draw the line?

The news hit the world like a slap in the face over Memorial Day weekend - a man in Miami stripped naked and attacked another man, chewing his face off. The attack lasted for eighteen minutes and the attacker was only subdued by a hailstorm of bullets.

All this is fact. All of this is good, factual, non-speculative reporting.

Then came the follow-up reports. The attacker, Rudy Eugene, was on drugs. He was taking bath salts. He was taking PCP. He was cursed by a voodoo priest. Theories abounded, each one a little crazier than the last. His family and friends have protested, saying he was a good-natured young man who carried his bible around, attended church, and never took anything stronger than the occasional joint. This contrast only added fuel to the fire.

Then, today, I found out the worst aspect of all (other than, of course, a man LOSING HIS FACE) - graphic crime scene photos were released to news organizations, including close-ups of the victim's face. ~sarcasm~ How sensational! How electrifying!

Screw that. It's unethical. It's criminal. And it's completely irreversible. Once a photo is out on the 'net, it's there to stay. And this pisses me off.

Perhaps I'm just oversensitive to this situation because I myself have been homeless. I've known others who are very much like the victim, Ronald Poppo - those who are chronically homeless. I feel like many of the big media outlets are treating Poppo like a second-class citizen at best, a non-entity at worse. No one asked Poppo for permission to release such graphic photos of his own injuries. I doubt such permission was even considered, for most feel that the homeless don't have any rights to anything, including their own image.

I don't know if this blog post is making a lot of sense, as I am so angry I can barely type straight. But I do know that I am sorely missing the days of straight-shooting reporting, just the facts, where the victim's rights were considered sacred and the news was delivered without the opinions, fear-mongering, and speculation that fills today's news shows.

I miss Walter Cronkite.

I miss Edward R. Murrow.

I miss reporters who will make the delineation between actual fact, opinion, and speculation clear-cut and concise. I miss journalist ethics and integrity.

I miss the little girl I used to be who wanted to grow up to be the next Barbara Walters or Connie Chung.

And as long as the public spends their time and money on news programs that are as sensationalized as soap operas, I know the modern news will not change.

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