There’s a long-running joke in New York and New Jersey about the quality of the New York Post
. It goes, “I didn’t read the paper today, but I saw the Post
Call it crap, fodder, entertainment, a joke. But people still buy the daily rag sheet.
This week, the paper’s editor faced a serious ethical conundrum when a freelance
photographer came back to the newsroom after snapping a picture of 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, who was pushed onto subway tracks by a stranger. As the victim tries frantically to climb off the tracks, the train barrels towards him.
Click. Click. Click.
The photographer, R. Umar Abbasi, has to decide in a split second: Try to help this desperate human being or do my job. His choice made the front page of the paper on Dec. 4—a decision by Abbasi and his editor that that many people blasted.
Abbasi defended his actions in a series of TV and print interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday. During an interview on the “Today” show
, he told hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie:
“It took me a second to figure out what is happening. The only thing I could think of at the time was to alert the driver with my camera flash, and I started running.”
He reiterated this point in a first-person essay
about the incident published in today’s Post
That hasn’t stopped photojournalists, editors, and media consultants from weighing in on the topic.
, a reporter for the Associated Press, writes:
“The moral issue among professional photojournalists in such situations is ‘to document or to assist,’ said Kenny Irby, an expert in the ethics of visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit journalism school.
“He said that’s the choice professional photographers often face in the seconds before a fatality.”
Dobnik’s story continues:
“Another professional reluctant to reach conclusions was veteran photographer John Long of the National Press Photographers Association, where he is chairman of the ethics committee.
“‘I cannot judge the man,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how far away he was; I don’t know if he could’ve done anything.’
“However, both Long and Irby said that as a photographer, ‘you are morally obliged to help’—if possible, rather than take a picture.”
Social media has been buzzing with comments and opinions from the public.
On Facebook, Scott Freeman of Newtown, Penn., posted: “I hope the editor of the NY Pos
t burns in hell. Publishing a front page
picture of a man left to die to sell papers is classless, cruel, and inhumane. What happened to humanity?”
For the record, there’s been no comment from the editors at the Post.
Did the rag sheet go too far this time?
Susan Young is a former reporter in New Jersey. She now runs the communications consultancy Get In Front Communications. A version of this story first appeared on the author’s blog.