On the Ethics of Citizen Photo Journalism
Yesterday I saw something horrible.
I was in the Powell Street BART Station after swimming when they closed the station. They found a body under one of the BART trains. I’m not sure if the guy jumped and it was a suicide or if he was pushed or what, but he was definitely crushed underneath the train. Here’s the SF Chronicle’s write up on it. 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.
It was sad to see something like that.