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.

Using Our Free Will Effectively
Yonoson Rosenblum The image we carry of ourselves is key
Eytan Kobre The ripple effects of one Jew’s kiddush Sheim Shamayim
Living the High Life
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger It is exhilarating to matter, to be truly alive
It’s Time for Us to Speak Up
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie We must speak out proudly for the values of Yiddishkeit
Kiruv Is Not Dead
Rabbi Meir Goldberg Do these sound like uninspired or closed students?
Frosting on the Cake
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Let’s not let a missing chocolate cake ruin our siyum!”
A Warm Corner in Flatbush
Yosef Zoimen It was a simple shul with a choshuve leader
Out of Control
Jacob L. Freedman “That’s illegal, Dr. Fine. I can’t have a part in this”
Song of Reckoning in the Skulener Court
Riki Goldstein “It’s awe-inspiring to watch the Rebbe sing this song”
“U’teshuvah, U’tefillah, U’tzedakah”
Riki Goldstein Throughout the Yamim Noraim, three words accompany us
The Rebbe Held His Gaze
Riki Goldstein A moment etched in Reb Dovid Werdyger’s memory forever
The Road Taken
Faigy Peritzman In the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness
Sincere Apology
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A heartfelt and complete apology can turn things around
Power Pack of Mercy
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The 13 Attributes of Mercy are “an infinite treasure”
The Appraiser: Part II
D. Himy M.S. CCC-SLP, and Zivia Reischer “Eli needs to see people who struggled to achieve”