Video and imagesÂ of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were both beheaded by the Islamic jihadist group ISIS, were broadcasted by many media platforms recently. However, The Washington TimesÂ reported that one theÂ Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)Â Code of Ethics (to minimize harm) was not followed.
Although I believe that a journalist’s job is to report on news, no matter how upsetting or gruesome, I began to questionÂ whether or not this story topicÂ and the pictures and video should have been releasedÂ to the public because of the Washington Times’ article.
The Washington Times also stated that the New York Times wrote a short article and showed one picture while breaking the story, while a Dutch online news organization played the video that included the beheading at the end.
Did the media really have to release this story to the public? What harm does it cause to people viewing itÂ including the families of Foley and Sotloff? Should there be a limit – if any – on what information the media can release? Is showingÂ pictures and videoÂ an advantage? Would viewers remember the story if it were just words spoken and nothing was shown?
On the other hand, I thought about howÂ we wouldÂ be able to educate ourselves about what is going on overseas and ISIS’ acts of terror if nothing was ever released to us. How would we know two innocent souls were killed?
On top of releasing the story and the components, I realized that another ethic that the mediaÂ did not followÂ was the ‘seek truth and reportÂ it.’ Â It wasn’t until Sept. 3Â when newspapers released an official quote from National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden that deemed the beheadings authentic.
Wouldnâ€™t you agree when dealing with something as serious as a person’s life that journalists would take more caution to see if all the information was accurate or not?
The sharing of the beheadingsÂ on social media has also brought Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo to suspend accounts who shared images and videos from the attacks who shared images and videos from the attacks. This led toÂ many ISIS twitter users and other users who were just sharing informationÂ to get suspended. ISIS and their followers use twitter hashtags such as IS and ISIS to reach out and possibly gain recruits from unknowingly users, but that is a whole other issue to discuss.
However, whether or not the story should have been broadcasted remains the topic at hand. What content, if any, should have been included in the broadcast? IsÂ a website postingÂ aÂ blurred out image any better thanÂ anÂ unedited version? Can broadcasting this actually be used for good in educatingÂ ourselves in current events?
So one final question: If you were a newsÂ journalist (TV or print) or a blogger, would you cover the story of the beheadings? Why or why not? What content would you include if so?