Do you apply the same rules to your reporting on mass shootings in the United States and terrorist attacks in the West as you do to attacks in other parts of the world? Some readers have accused The Times of publishing far fewer graphic images of victims who are white or non-Western.
LOORAM We do endeavor to apply the same rules to our choice of images from attacks in any part of the world. But these are weighty decisions, considered on a case-by-case basis by individuals.
It is important that as journalists, we carefully evaluate whether or not we may be applying any unconscious bias or varying standards to these decisions.
We have published images of victims of crime and terror attacks in the United States and other Western countries, including in this article from the Las Vegas shooting and this image from a crime scene in New York City. And here’s one, even further back, from the Oklahoma City bombing.
Our editors are only dealing with the universe of photographs that are available from any given news event. Press photographers in the United States and other Western countries do not always have the same access to crime scenes as those in the developing world.
I personally can’t recall having seen any images of victims of school shootings in the United States, so it is difficult to compare the two scenarios.
LACEY If you go through the archives of The New York Times, you can find a number of photographs that depict dead Americans. They’re there, as Meaghan pointed out. But I do think we can do a better job of having consistent standards that apply across the world.
The Times is a global news organization with readers everywhere. Gone are the days in which we can view our audience as an American one. We ought to make our standards decisions without regard to nationality. If we believe a particular type of photograph or article is too sensitive for an American audience, we ought to apply that same standard to a Kenyan audience, and a French one and a Mexican one.
How does the fact that more than 70 percent of our audience is in the United States play into our calculations? If we thought we had a mostly Kenyan audience, would we have published the same photo?
LOORAM Historically, I think that American news organizations did tend to consider only a local or national audience, and thus may have applied different standards to material from locations broadly thought to be remote or “over there,” rather than close to home. I do think that as a global news organization, we must try to let go of this notion and make decisions based on the fact that we serve a global audience.
LACEY I lived in Kenya for five years, and I have numerous friends who still live there. My immediate thought when I heard of this attack was whether someone I knew might be a victim. For me, this was not some faraway attack. It was a horrible incident in a place I knew well.
Do we have a consistent policy for the publication of graphic images? If not, are there plans to implement one?
LACEY As a result of the concerns from our readers that this photo raised, we’re going to convene a group of people to come up with clearer guidelines. I am going to be part of that effort.
LOORAM The group of journalists Marc is referring to will draft a guide for editors who are faced with making these kinds of consequential decisions.
As part of this process, we will create a set of questions to consider before publishing sensitive images. We must weigh our responsibility as journalists to help our readers see and understand the reality of the world with sensitivity to the victims and their families. We take both of these responsibilities very seriously.
It is also crucial to me as the director of photography that our editors are cognizant of issues of representation of people of color. We must not apply different standards, or give less consideration, to the dignity and humanity and pain of any group of people.