Exercise 3.3 – Breaking the News

Read this blog about the New York Post’s image of a man about to be killed by a subway train. Read the details of the blog carefully and write up your own analysis of the event. Comment on the ethical decision of the commuter who took the pictures.     link     http://www.ibtimes.com/new-york-post-subway-death-photo-unethical-or-just-tasteless-918619

The blog was written by Christopher Zara on 12/04/2012 at 2:47 pm. The title of the post was “New York Post Subway Death Photo: Unethical or just tasteless?”.

It brings the reader up to date with an incident on the New York subway where a black vagrant in New York pushed a man of Chinese origin into the path of an oncoming train.

The victim, Ki Suk Han, was subsequently killed by the train, the suspect, Aheem Davis ran away but was later stopped and arrested by police.

To this day, the case has not been fully cleared and the suspect, who freely admitted what he had done, is still being detained, hoping to have the charge of murder reduced to some form of manslaughter.

Christopher Zara’s blog poses one very important dilemma for the New York Post who issued an article soon after the event showing a picture of the victim seconds before he was crushed to death. The title of the article included the words “This man is about to die”.

new-york-subway

The photograph was one of a series taken by freelance photographer R.Umar Abbasi who happened to have his camera with him at the time and the use of the photograph has been severely criticised by the general public but also by distinguished experts such as Kevin Z Smith, chairman of the “society of professional journalists”.

Smith publicly announced that the New York Post were unethical. “The article and the photo made it all the way up the chain of editorial command and nobody stopped it”, said Smith. He then went on to ask about the feelings of the widow. “There were so many levels of ethical lapses, it’s disturbing”.

Other comments by bloggers were:

“Whoever took the picture that’s on the cover of the NY Post should be arrested for not helping the dude that got killed”

“Who let this man die on the subway?”

The New York Post did not respond to a request for comment.

There were many more comments from other sources.

One of the problems with the bloggers is that one could easily form a misguided opinion of the outcome. It is interesting to note that the original blogger, Christopher Zara, has since had his account stopped by Twitter. The other bloggers may have been commenting without all the facts and however passionately they felt about the incident, they could be wrong.

In order to put the whole story together it would be necessary to take an approach similar to Fred Ritchin’s  hyperphotography where the controversial photograph is the central point and all the information available is attached via metadata.

By analysing some of the follow-on articles (up to March 2016) the following facts have come to light:

  • The photographer, in his defence, stated that the reason he had photographed a number of times was to alert the train driver and persuade him to stop, therefore claiming that he was the hero. This still avoids the question of whether it was ethical to pass the photograph onto the NY Post.
  • The daughter of the victim brought a case against New York City Transit, saying that the driver should have been able to stop in time. Knowing her father, she may have been supporting the victim or she may simply have been trying to obtain compensation.
  • The NY Post who were severely criticised for publishing the photograph continue to do so (including their latest article on March 3rd 2016).
  • The suspect has declared that Han started the argument and was drunk and violent.
  • The suspect has stated that he is bipolar and was under the influence of Marijuana whilst not taking his medication. He has also stated that he was not thinking straight due to an incident two days before where an acquaintance had thrown away his favourite shoes. We have to remember that he is a vagrant.

Although Han had had an argument with his wife on the morning of the fatal accident, was drunk at the time and showing a violent tendency it appears that she was upset when he died.

ki-suk-han-wife

 

Although Davis was a vagrant under the influence of drugs and in a bad state of mind, he did not commit premeditated murder and is most likely to be charged with manslaughter.

naeem-davies

For the photographer, it was difficult to decide what to do with the photographs. If his story about trying to alert the train driver is honest (and I think we have to assume it is) then even though he has not photographed any of the violence he must think about the effect his picture would have on Han’s family and friends, let alone the general public.

Gruesome imagery is increasingly becoming a part of the everyday news cycle in an age when everyone is equipped with a portable camera. Would it have been any different today? Not really!

My personal view is that he should have kept the pictures to himself. If the police or the court required them they could then have been used as evidence.

Finally, my conclusion is that the New Your Post were the biggest culprit. They were totally wrong to publish the photograph, and in particular the controversial headline. These were used purely to sensationalise the incident.

References

http://www.ibtimes.com/new-york-post-subway-death-photo-unethical-or-just-tasteless-918619

http://nypost.com/2012/12/04/suspect-confesses-in-pushing-death-of-queens-dad-in-times-square-subway-station/

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/who-let-man-die-subway/320843/

http://nypost.com/2016/03/03/plea-deal-will-let-homeless-subway-pusher-dodge-life-in-jail/

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/subway-pusher-mad-timberlands-article-1.1240693

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