I took a photo of the guy crushed under the train but it was pretty gruesome. I’m not sure why I took a photo of the incident other than it was just sort of a gut reaction to shoot anything that possibly could be citizen journalism with my camera.
I was pretty freaked out seeing the guy under the train. Afterwards I thought about publishing the photograph but questioned the journalistic integrity of that. Surely this guy must have family right? And why add to the ugliness in the world by publishing something so terrible. I contacted my friend John Curley who was an editor at the Chronicle for many years and now teaches at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism to ask his opinion. John got back with me and said that the Chronicle would not print such a photograph and so that confirmed what I was feeling and I chose not to publish the photo.
And here’s one of those times when the right thing happened…
John Curley is right here. Way back in the ancient days, when my dad owned the newspaper, he wasn’t just owner, editor and publisher, but one of the photographers. He’d get the late night calls at times and go out to places where things had happened. Sometimes I’d tag along. A few times, when they were out, I’d get out there myself (an interesting situation, showing up at a fatal car crash at 10PM with a camera and press pass — at age 8, with a driver).
In these situations, sensitivity is paramount. You can (and need to) get the story over, but you need to be sensitive to the victim and family, but you ALSO need to be sensitive to your audience. In the case I noted above, it was a car hitting a pedestrian fatality. Not exactly a place for an 8 year old, normally. The photo that ran — was of the damage to the windshield of the car.
You don’t need to get graphic to tell the story. And you can tell the story and still be sensitive to those that the story affects, if you keep in mind the people involved, and not just think about getting the photo.
Sometimes, there are bigger issues than getting the shot.