Shock image threshold falls under internet pressure

PARIS, (Reuters) – The threshold for publishing  gruesome images like those of Muammar Gaddafi’s death is falling  as the internet and social media make many of the editorial  decisions that used to be left to a small group of professional  journalists.

The shaky video footage of Gaddafi’s last moments was such a  dramatic end to Libya’s months-long struggle against its former  dictator that many television stations around the world rushed  to broadcast much of what they received.

Newspapers followed up on Friday morning, some splashing   graphic photos of the bloodied former Libyan leader across their  front pages while others opted for pictures of victorious  anti-Gaddafi troops or file shots of Gaddafi in his heyday.

Showing images of a person in the throes of death used to be  a newsroom taboo, but even this is now giving way under the  pressure of instant internet publishing and — thanks to camera  phones — the increasing availablility of strong news footage.

“Over the past 10 years, whatever your society’s standards  were, they’re notching towards more gruesome images,” said Kelly  McBride, ethics expert at the Poynter Institute journalism  training centre in St Petersburg, Florida.

In many cases, she said, news organisations now deal mostly  with the question of how to publish a graphic but newsworthy  picture rather than whether they should run it at all.

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