Sharing victims’ social media photos in news reports

Journalists covering traumatic news often have to make difficult decisions, especially when it comes to photographs. Kimina Lyall writes for the Guardian, there are difficult ethical dilemmas that come with trauma reporting. There was a deadly bus crash in Australia that killed 10 people and some of the images that were circulating with the news were taken from the victim’s social media pages without permission.

The SPJ Code of Ethics says that journalists need to “recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast” and to show compassion to those affected by the news coverage. Taking photos from the victim’s social media pages without permission is an invasion of privacy. Lyall says, “It inflames the wound of powerlessness. Something happened ‘to’ the family and survivors, something they had no say in.” The Code states, “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.” It is important to consider the harm using these photos could potentially cause to the families and friends of the victims.