Publishing ATV accident video goes too far

Nearly every week at any newspaper, editors, photographers and reporters face situations where they must balance the news value of their stories and photos against the sensitivities of our readers.

In some situations, there are no black-and-white answers as to what we should put in the paper.

But when it comes to the death of an ATV rider in Carson City on Monday night, the answer is black and white. The Appeal chose not to run any photos of the victim at the scene, out of sensitivity to the friends and family of the victim.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. The video from the grisly accident scene is available on a Web site that also covers Carson City news.

We don't question that it will get plenty of visits from the curious, and that's what the photographer intended. But just because we can publish something doesn't mean that we should.

The criteria we use to judge controversial photos at the Appeal is the same used at most other newspapers. They include whether there's relevant news value to the photo, who will be affected by its publication, and whether it would cause any unnecessary harm.

The outcome of all that is often disagreement, even within newsrooms. That's why some papers published photos of a man falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11, and others did not. Some printed photos of charred bodies of American soldiers in Iraq; others did not.

In those situations, editors' arguments for publication were that it's the job of newspapers to accurately portray, rather than censor, the news, even if that includes the horror of war.

But in the case of the ATV rider, there were no such concerns and thus no reason to run the images of the body. It's a matter of ethics.

We hope its publisher realizes that and removes the video.


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