Ethical Problems in Mass Media

Topics: Virtue ethics, Virtue, Photography Pages: 5 (1517 words) Published: December 16, 2013
Virtuous decisions of photographers
Publishing photographs that show personal tragedy and are questionable in their moral standards with those concerning privacy and those about inflicting additional harm on victims can be supported by Aristotle's Virtue Ethics. This should be supported because, as a news organization, photographing what is seen shows the magnitude of the situation and documents as it happened.

The publication of graphic material such as was seen in the Bakersfield Californian. Photographer John Harte snapped eight frames after he responded to a call on the police scanner reporting a drowning. He arrived at a lake northeast of Bakersfield, California to the scene of divers still looking for a drowning victim. When the body of five-year-old Edward Romero was brought to shore a few minutes later, Harte went against what most of the other photojournalists and television crew did, which was opt out, and took photographs of the body while the family members, who were on the lake shore, began to grieve. His editor, Robert Bentley, made the decision to run the photograph. The ethical question that surfaced when the public reacted to the photograph was to run personal tragedy photographs and exposing more grief on family members of the boy.

Aristotle's cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and courage support what Harte and Bentley did when they ran the photograph of the boy. Harte's decision to take the photograph shows courage because he did it to the best of his own moral standing.

This isn't the first time photographs that have been graphic and showing personal tragedy have been published. In "A State of Emergency," photojournalist Gabriele Stabile took photographs in March 2009. "That month, a wave of spring thunderstorms flooded Gaza's unpaved streets and blew down relief tents for families displaced by Cast Lead" (2011). The reason why the photographs were published and defended through the virtue theory is because "people from everywhere can relate to this: seeing a grown man crying is always heartbreaking, especially if it's someone whose daily challenges are far tougher than the ones we experience" (2011).

Furthermore, not only is the media used in newspapers but in courtrooms as well, which documents graphic scenes of the crime scene and victims as well. Although the use of such imagery has become the norm, the prejudicial nature of this evidence continues to be a contested issue in courtrooms across America. Criminal defense attorneys routinely submit motions in limine to restrict or exclude crime scene photos on the grounds they put undue focus on the victim and generate sympathy. Civil defense attorneys submit similar motions, positing that such evidence, which may be relevant for determining damages, has an improper impact on jurors' assessments of liability. Under both circumstances, judges exercise their discretion and usually allow the jury to see some, if not all, of the images (2009).

This shows that the judges using the virtue theory have to decide whether it is OK to show published photographs of the crime scene and victims that have been harmed, or if they avoid showing it at all because of the lawyers arguments for or against it. Most of the time, the judge will choose to show some, if not all, of the images. This example is included because judges are like photographers in that they want the whole story shown and they want to be the communicator in getting justice or awareness out to the population, no matter how graphic the material is. Counterarguments/refutation

People have disagreed in that they take the utilitarianism theory approach which states that it minimizes harm and reduces suffering. Many would argue that publishing photographs that are graphic have caused the family more harm and increased their suffering by having their grief made public.

An example of this would be when Ki-Sak Han was pushed in front of subway train and when his body was...
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