This past Monday, following an argument with another man on the subway platform, 58-year-old Queens resident Ki-Suk Han was pushed to the tracks below. A photo of Han, head turned toward the oncoming train that would kill him, made the cover of Tuesday’s New York Post, a Newscorp daily seldom celebrated for its ethics or good taste.
The photo, along with the headline, “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die,” with “DOOMED” in caps at the bottom, has sparked a fierce debate as to whether such a horrific image ought to be published at all—let alone on the cover of the nation’s seventh-largest paper.
RD contributor Rachel Wagner, associate professor of Religion and Culture at Ithaca College and RD newcomer Jason Anthony, deputy editor at Time Inc., stake out opposing positions on the value of publishing the photo: does the journalist’s vital role as witness trump other social, civil concerns? Or is the publishing of an image like this a betrayal of human community?
Jason Anthony: “The Journalist’s Job”
“You can debate that a good outlet uses those eyeballs in ways that are useful, and that a bad news outlet uses them to prey on our baser tastes for gore, sex and voyeurism. By this measure, the Post is a bad news outlet. But it doesn’t change the fact that a death on the subway is news, the story of life as it happens, the impartial mirror we rely on to tell us the real story about ourselves.”
Rachel Wagner: “All the Wrong Reasons”
“Han’s death strikes a chord for us because we don’t know him, and because we can see ourselves in him through his anonymity. It is meaningful because it forces us to recognize in ourselves the secret dark urge that might cause us also to pull out our cell phones to record the event because nothing is “real” to us if not mediated.”