RIT Ethicist, Journalism Expert Comment on ‘New York Post’ Use of Subway Tragedy Photo

Experts say ‘Post’ cover photo was ‘gratuitous’ and in ‘bad taste’

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The death of Ki-Suck Han in a Manhattan subway on Monday, allegedly prompted by a shove from another man on the subway platform, is a tragedy in itself. However, ethicists and journalists around the country are now engaged in heated conversations regarding the New York Post’s controversial decision to run a disturbing photo of Han on its cover with the accompanying headline, “Doomed.”

• Evan Selinger, associate professor of philosophy and renowned ethicist at Rochester Institute of Technology, says, “Ultimately, what I’m missing is the New York Post’s justification for running the image. Unless a justification can be given that parallels instances of political photojournalism, for example, it seems to have acted in bad faith. Running the photo simply as an illustration of what happened seems to be a decision made more to capitalize on readers’ interest in the moribund. Again, I do believe that unless the image was used to promote a general political issue—say, the need to enhance subway safety—the picture is gratuitous. It adds nothing to the story, and if the deceased has family, it can be devastating for them to see.”

• Andrea Hickerson, RIT assistant professor of journalism, says, “I don’t think the New York Post should have run it. For me, it’s about professional values. I don’t think the photo helps the public or adds any value to the story. The story didn’t need the photo to be disturbing—it already was. Because the photo doesn’t add any value, I can only assume the Post used the photo for publicity reasons—and it worked. However, most people seem disgusted, so I doubt there will be any long-term financial gain. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Post is a Murdoch holding. This style of journalism is common in the United Kingdom—and look where it got the News of the World.

Selinger is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Slate among others. Samples of his work can be found on his personal website at http://eselinger.org/media/. Hickerson regularly discusses ethical issues in journalism with her students and is currently teaching law and ethics. She is a contributing blogger to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

To arrange an interview with Selinger or Hickerson, call 585-475-4952.