Friday, November 09, 2007

The Advocate faces ethical dilemma

The Advocate, the student newspaper at Contra Costa College in Richmond, Calif., had a difficult ethical decision to make yesterday.

One of the newspaper's photographers got a shot of a campus police aide, a student, who had been shot just minutes before. The powerful image shows the young man lying on the ground with other police aides gathered around him.

The photo was ready to be published within an hour of the shooting, but the young man's family had not been notified. The editors had a tough decision: Should they run the photo immediately, wait, or not run the photo? The student editors decided to hold off until the victim's next of kin had been notified about his injuries. The newspaper posted the photo on its Web site later that day, after authorities had notified the family and confirmed the victim's identity. (By that time the editors also knew the victim was still alive but seriously injured.)

Though the editors held the photo for several hours, the newspaper ran updates on the story throughout the afternoon and evening, including a report on the manhunt for the gunman and another on the cancellation of classes in response to the shooting. The Advocate's coverage is an excellent example of how a weekly college newspaper can cover a big breaking news story.

Do you think the newspaper editors made the right decision? Should the paper have held the photo? Should the photo have been posted to the Web immediately? Post a comment here.

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