Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Out-Scoop Your Conscience

Rachel Ginsberg

Pressured by editors who need to scoop the competition in a media society where fight for market share is a number-one priority, how far off their own moral course will reporters veer for a story?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Last week, Jews in New York and around the world were outraged by the New York Post’s coverage of the shocking murder of Williamsburg resident Menachem Stark z”l. But the Post has a reputation for constantly pushing the limits of decency, and the offensive banner headline, which practically justified his horrific demise, was in fact faithful to the newspaper’s pattern: the more shocking the headline, the more papers will sell. Take last year’s gruesome front-page photo of a man pushed onto the subway tracks about to be hit by a train, with the screaming headline: “DOOMED… This Man Is About to Die.” The masses condemned the gory spin, but few could resist the urge to read the story.

That horrifying December 2012 image showedQueensresident Ki-Suck Han desperately struggling to climb to safety after being shoved onto the subway tracks by a street hustler, as the headlights of the train bore down on him. Seconds later, he was run over and killed.

Even the Post, which created its niche in sensationalist, bad-taste journalism, was surprised by the onslaught of condemnation by media ethicists, other media outlets, and even Post fans. How, these critics asked, could the paper stoop so low and publish a picture, with no journalistic or political purpose, of a hapless man about to die? And worse, what kind of media culture encourages a photographer to snap a picture instead of trying to rescue the poor fellow?

The photographer, R. Umar Abbassi, soon found himself facing unnerving questions about his scoop, but defended his actions the following day in newspaper and television interviews. Abbassi said he had his camera in his hand because he’d just been on assignment nearby. When he saw what had happened — alerted by screaming onlookers who were trying to warn the train driver — he began running toward Han, but said he was too far away to reach the victim. As he ran, Abbassi said he snapped the shutter in the hope that the driver would see the flashes from his camera and brake in time to avoid hitting Han. The flash, he said, went off 49 times.

“I had no idea what I was shooting. I’m not even sure it was registering with me what was happening,” he told the New York Times the next day — although he did submit the photos and was paid well for them. Still, he said he wasn’t involved in the publishing decision. “Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of death. I don’t care about a photograph,” he said.

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"