prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for April, 2012

Disturbing Photos Create a Moral Dilemma

Posted by prof e on April 22, 2012

A few days ago the LA Times created a stir by publishing photos of U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan corpses. The two photos, published in the paper and online versions of the news publication, were taken in 2010 by a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division and given to a Times reporter. According to the Poynter website, military officials asked the Times to not publish the photos, but the newspaper went ahead and offered this rational in defense:

After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.

This incident touches on several issues related to the textbook chapters currently being discussed in class. There are concerns over the legality of images that compromise personal privacy. There are also ethical issues related to images of a graphic nature. And there are concerns over journalistic ethics when national security is at stake. Another factor at play is the embarrassment of military and government leaders who would like to have miss-deeds go unnoticed. While military and government leaders have called the behavior captured in the photos “reprehensible” and “morally repugnant,” journalists have an obligation to shine a light on misbehavior whenever and wherever they find it. The question here is how to do so without compromising other important and cherished values. As the LA Times website noted, “the taboo against desecration of the dead is strong in this religiously conservative country.”

There are, unfortunately, plenty of other examples in recent history of visual imagery that posed ethical dilemmas. The Abu Ghraib photos in 2004 of U.S. military personnel posing with inmates in compromising positions comes quickly to mind. Graphic photos of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were carried by some news outlets while others decided to opt for photos of rebels celebrating his death. The White House refused to release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden thus relieving journalists of the pressure of having to make that decision. And just a few months ago a video surfaced of U.S. troops urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

Images are powerful. Perhaps cameras should come with a warning label: CAUTION, do not use without first considering consequences.

Posted in 1st amendment, journalism, politics, print, regulation | 36 Comments »

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Posted by prof e on April 11, 2012

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato lived about 400 years BC and is well known for his many contributions to modern thought. But did you know that he wrote about modern mass media thousands of years before they existed? Watch this short video on YouTube and see if you can identify the modern mass medium that is depicted by this allegory.

For more about the making of the short film, visit this website.

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »