David Puckett: Was the Aurora Sentinel’s Use of Body Bag Photo Insensitive?
In journalism and general media coverage, finding the right photo to tell a story and report the news is typically given a lot of consideration. For the Aurora Sentinel, it took a lot of thought and defense of their choice to use an image depicting a body bag being pulled out of the ice in covering the tragic death of David Puckett.
The Aurora Sentinel published the controversial photo on Tuesday, and since then it's received varying feedback.
"I don't agree with it," one Facebook user wrote in the comments of 9NEWS' post about the photo. "I have a 5 year old and if something this terrible we're (sic) to happen (I deeply DEEPLY hope it never does) in my grief I saw that image it could very well be the thing that sent me over the edge. I don't find it in good taste."
Another Facebook user said, "It is disrespectful and no need for it other than unprofessional journalism! You should be ashamed and don't think it did anything for your credibility!!"
Other Facebook users supported the Aurora Sentinel's choice in tenfold.
"The photo is gut wrenching but it's real. And we ask for our news to be real," wrote another user.
Shaming censorship also came up in the conversation. One person wrote on the same post, "I agree with [the editor's] decision, because what we need is not more censorship...The world is real, and it is raw - it is beautiful yet ugly, and hiding the ugly parts from people doesn't change that. If anything, it makes us even more oblivious and in denial."
The Aurora Sentinal's editor Dave Perry wrote an editorial titled "Picture this - photos depicting dead children are critical and inapt" defending his choice to use the body bag image, and 9NEWS invited him on Next with Kyle Clark to provide further explanation.
He put it this way:
Our job, as journalists is to help people understand what goes on in their world in the best way possible. The image itself conveys that moment of somebody being pulled from the ice that's been looked for for a long time, and that type of tragedy is something people need to understand.
Perry also told 9NEWS that he did consider whether David Puckett's family would see the photo but that the news isn't reported for one single person.
Read and watch the rest of Perry's explanation to 9NEWS here.
As a media contributor myself (not a journalist), I can attest that selecting an appropriate image is always a careful decision that one must make. There have been times I've used images deemed inappropriate by few individuals, and therefore was I asked to change said image. In my opinion, this is just ridiculous, though I follow suit because, well, I really have no choice. Censorship is one of the biggest disservices the media can make for our community, and it pains me to have to censor little things. I commend Dave Perry and the Aurora Sentinel for bravely making a decision I know was difficult to make. No matter how heartbreaking of a story it is (which it certainly is), I believe it was the right decision to publish the image in question. An image of a child in a body bag is sad, YES, but it depicts the reality of the story. The very least a news outlet like the Sentinel can do is deliver just that - truth.