I think our nature inherent curiosity as humans is what drives sensationalistic journalism, particularly after tragedies, such as the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013. It seems as though we were all connected to that day, whether we were there or knew someone who was, or just connected as concerned, scared people. However we were connected, the need to grieve and understand is strong in each of us.
For those of us who were not there, social media and newscasts provided the details of the day as they unfolded. I specifically remember using the hashtag #BostonStrong to monitor the events of the day and receive information as it was released. This hashtag was not only used by news outlets, but by concerned citizens and people who were actually in attendance. I think it goes without saying that many of the pictures shared after the bombings were horrific, startling, upsetting, and graphic.
Not only were individuals sharing images of the massacre, but national news outlets were also retweeting and sharing the images, both online, and on television. This, in my eyes, is unethical for various reasons. For one, it is sensitive material involving real people (who I am sure did not sign a waiver in their time of despair allowing their image to be streamed across the internet). What if the family of the injured only discovered it because they saw it on Twitter? These events are traumatic on so many levels, and in this case, citizen and organized journalism truly added to the trauma.
If you were severely injured after a tragic and horrendous incident, would you want your picture to go viral? Should the photographed person have a say before they are the “face” of a specific tragedy?
I personally would never want my image shared without my written consent – particularly in a situation like the aftermath of a bombing. The mistakes made in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing are plentiful, yet I worry that these are going to be real, constant issues in journalism as we move forward.