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.